NANDO’S South Africa announced on Thursday that it was stopping a television advert campaign caricaturing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as the “last dictator standing”.
The advert had been criticised by the restaurant chain’s Zimbabwe franchise which described it as “insensitive and in poor taste”.
But in a statement, Nando’s South Africa said it took the action to withdraw the advert from its TV Christmas campaign over the “political reaction emanating out of Zimbabwe, including perceived threats against Nando’s Zimbabwe’s management, staff and customers.”
“Nando’s South Africa 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,” the statement added.
Although discontinuing the campaign, Nando’s South Africa pledged a continuing commitment “to an advertising philosophy built around social commentary that starts conversations between people.”
Chipangano, a militant youth group loyal to President Robert Mugabe, had called for a boycott of Nando’s after the advert depicting the aging Mugabe as "the last dictator standing” was posted on YouTube and immediately went viral.
The commercial that touts chicken shows Mugabe dining alone at Christmas, his empty table set for departed dictators including Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin.
To the soundtrack of Mary Hopkin's hit song "Those Were the Days," the commercial shows an actor playing Mugabe reminiscing about his times with former dictators. It portrays him and Gaddafi engaging in a water-pistol fight, with Gaddafi wielding a golden AK-47 water pistol.
The ersatz Mugabe also makes sand angels with Iraq's Saddam Hussein, sings karaoke with Chairman Mao, and holds overthrown Ugandan dictator Idi Amin astride a tank in a scene parodying Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the hit movie "Titanic."
The head of Nando's Zimbabwe franchise said it was not informed of the South African television and press campaign, and is independent of them.
Musekiwa Kumbula, corporate affairs director at Innscor Africa, holders of the Nando's franchise in Zimbabwe, said in a statement the 60-second television commercial widely seen on Zimbabwe websites was generated in South Africa for its market and clientele.
He added: “The Nandos SA advertisement, which denigrates the person of President RG Mugabe, was generated in South Africa, by Nandos South Africa for South African markets and clientele. Nandos Zimbabwe strongly feels the advertisement was insensitive and in poor taste. No consultation takes place between different franchises when they are formulating marketing strategies."
Business tycoon Ray Kaukonde, a major stockholder in Innscor and a former provincial governor in Mugabe's Zanu PF party, said the advertising denigrated Mugabe. He called it "a violation of business ethics" and said it was "in total disregard of African values.”
Chipangano demanded an apology be made to the nation for the "negative portrayal" of Mugabe, 87, who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 but is now an international pariah, accused of killing opponents and clinging to power.
LAST DICTATOR STANDING