/ 2 December 2011

Nando’s ad ruffling feathers in Zim

Nando's Ad Ruffling Feathers In Zim

The rooster has long been Robert Mugabe’s party symbol and it perches proudly atop the Zanu-PF headquarters. And, as Nando’s now knows, only one cockerel rules the roost in Zimbabwe.

The image of our great leader is guarded jealously. We have patriotic laws that make it an offence to make fun of Mugabe. Journalists who write critically of his rule walk on eggshells. Which is why the new Nando’s television advert has ruffled a few feathers.

To the sounds of Mary Hopkin’s Those were the days, my friend, the advert shows “Mugabe” daydreaming about the good old days, at play with various other revolutionary leaders. For example, with Muammar Gaddafi he shoots water pistols around the garden and with Idi Amin he shares a ride on a tank.

To keep out the reactionary work of the likes of whoever made the advert, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has a monopoly on what gets aired. But it is hard to control this viral internet thing and, in no time, it was the most talked-about topic among the growing ranks of the Zimbabwean twitterati — known as “twimbos” — and on Facebook.

This required some direct cage-rattling. Zanu-PF’s youth chairperson in Harare, Jimu Kunaka, who is also the head of the Chipangano militia, called for a boycott of Nando’s and demanded an apology.

Nando’s: Last dictator standing

“We will mobilise for all the youths to boycott them if they do not apologise for this negative portrayal of the president,” Kunaka said. Mugabe was a “constitutionally elected” leader and he deserved respect.

Upfumi Kuvadiki, a group of young revolutionaries who occasionally threaten unpatriotic businesses on behalf of Zanu-PF in the name of black empowerment, said the advert was in “bad taste” and demanded that Nando’s withdraw it. DStv, which is widely viewed in Zimbabwe, should be asked to somehow blank out the advert, according to the Zanu-PF youths.

If anything, all the talk about the advert has served only to boost its views. Internet access is booming in Zimbabwe; a recent report by mobile web browser Opera ranked the country as the fastest-growing mobile internet market in Africa and the biggest market in terms of page views per user.

The Zimbabwean franchise holder of Nando’s, Innscor, quickly made it clear that it had nothing to do with the advert and that it was independent of Nando’s South Africa. One of Innscor’s major shareholders, Ray Kaukonde, a Zanu-PF official, said the Nando’s advert displayed “total disregard of African values”.

By now South Africans should have learned that Zimbabweans do not find the same things funny. Last year the band Freshlyground were denied a permit to perform after they released, on the eve of a Harare concert, a video of their song Chicken to Change, which caricatured Mugabe.

Zimbabwean authorities have also warned newspapers over various offences against the dignity of the great leader, including one that published a picture of him pulling up his breeches.