Studio 263, Zimbabwe’s first-ever soap opera, made its debut in 2002. The series was initially written by Aaron Chiundura Moyo and revolved around the lives of people living in the capital city of Harare. Studio 263 made history by becoming one of the few locally produced series to be broadcasted on international television channels, such as M-net.
The soap opera was sponsored by Population Services International Zimbabwe (PSI-Z) with funding from the United States Agent for International Development (USAID). The primary aim of the show was to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. The first scripts were developed by Aaron Chiundura Moyo, who headed the creative department, along with assistance from Tawanda Gunda and Leanord Matsa from September 2002 to 2004. The PSI-Z requested the team to create ten characters that represented various HIV and AIDS issues that they wished to highlight. The soapie was aired five times a week for four years before being taken off the air in 2007.
The plot of the soap opera was based on real-life situations that Zimbabwean youth faced daily, particularly regarding issues such as abstinence and learning about one’s HIV status. Studio 263 aimed to reveal the importance of disclosing one’s HIV status and fighting against stigma. The soapie also aimed to influence behavioral change through the power of celebrities. In 2004, the cast and crew of Studio 263 participated in a month of outreach that included hospital, orphanage, and hospice visits.
The soap opera targeted urban youth with the aim of reducing HIV and AIDS-related illnesses. Tatenda Mavetera played the character of Tendayi, who sought support from her family and friends as she wanted to disclose her status publicly to help other HIV-positive people.
Angie Jari, James Sakupwanya, John Huni, Joyce Huni, Monique Huni, Olivia Shereni, Tamara ende-Mai Huni, Kizito Mawoko-WellyMbambo, Tracy, Vimbai Jari, Denzel Burutsa-Jabu, Stephen Chigorimbo-John Huni, Grace Chiweshe, Tinopona Katsande-Joyce Huni, Chairmaine Mangw, Rebecca Mpofu, Martha Mtambali-Beverly, and Anne Nhira-Vimbai Huni.
Studio 263 was pulled off the air in 2007 by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation due to contractual disputes. The production had to be discontinued, resulting in some of the actors leaving the country in search of greener pastures.