You’ve probably seen the latest Nando’s advert on television or, if not, then on YouTube, under the title: “Last dictator standing”. The one where Zimbabwean dictator, erm president, Robert Mugabe sits down to dinner all alone, during which he remembers the good old days when he frolicked with Muammar Gaddafi, Mao Tse-tung, Saddam Hussein, PW Botha, and Idi Amin. Although Mugabe has set six places at his table, all his dictator friends (the ones referenced in the advert at least), are now dead.
Watch: Last dictator standing:
The soundtrack: Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days. (Sample lyrics: “We’d live the life we choose/ we’d fight and never lose/ for we were young/ and sure to have our way…”) The payoff line: “No one should ever have to eat alone, so get a Nando’s six-pack meal, for six.”
The ad was also flighted in Zimbabwe – well, at least to those members of the population who are able to afford DStv. But, as we’ve noted before, the Mugabe regime just doesn’t get satire. Jimu Kunaka, who heads up the “Chipangano” group of Mugabe loyalists, reportedly threatened action against Nando’s and its Zimbabwean staff.
The fast-food chain has since withdrawn the advert. Nando’s said in a statement that it: “takes these threats very seriously and will regrettably no longer flight the TV commercial as part of our festive season campaign. We feel strongly that this is the prudent step to take in a volatile climate and believe that no TV commercial is worth risking the safety of Nando’s staff and customers.”
Previously Musekiwa Kumbula, representing Nando’s Zimbabwean franchise, had said his company “strongly feels the advertisement is insensitive and in poor taste”. It goes without saying that freedom of expression is a right to be fought for and defended, but we’re not about to criticise Nando’s for playing this one safe. Apart from the threats, insulting the president is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe.
It’s sobering to realise though that Mugabe can bully a private-sector company in South Africa into toeing his line. If an international brand such as Nando’s can’t take the heat of standing up to him, remember that it’s that much more difficult – and potentially dangerous – for ordinary Zimbabweans to speak out against the “last dictator standing”. DM
In other news...
South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.
On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.
And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.
However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.
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Scotland has a town called Dull. Oregon has a town called Boring and Australia a town called Boring. Combined they are coined the "Trinity of Tedium".