Nando’s decides Mugabe commercial is a laughing matter no more

By Theresa Mallinson 2 December 2011

After Zanu PF-aligned group Chipangano threatened action against Nando’s for flighting a satirical advert featuring Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (via DStv), the fast-food chain has withdrawn the commercial from our screens. And yes, that includes South Africa. We can still all watch it on YouTube though, where it's gone viral, racking up almost 25,000 hits so far. By THERESA MALLINSON.

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The fast-food chain has since withdrawn the advert.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

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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.

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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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