Mugabe grilled in South African chicken ad
A satirical ad by Nando's Chicken poked fun at Zimbabwe President Mugabe. His supporters were not amused.
Those were the days, Mr. Mugabe.
A South African satirical television commercial, for the Nandoâ€™s Chicken restaurants, has captured the South African imagination, depicting Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabeâ€™s difficulty in coming up with enough dictators to come to a Christmas Party this festive season.
Called â€śThe Last Dictator Standing,â€ť (attached at the bottom of this article) the commercial imagines Mugabe and Muammar Qaddafi having a watergun fight; Mao Zedong and Mugabe singing karaoke; Saddam Hussein and Mugabe making snow angels, in the sand, in their boxer shorts; Mugabe and Idi Amin mimicking that front-of-the Titanic â€śflyingâ€ť scene aboard a tank; and most improbably of all, Mugabe pushing apartheid defender P.W. Botha in a swing.
Alas, whether by NATO bombs or natural causes, all are now dead. Itâ€™s going to be a lonely Christmas.
Though quite popular â€“ the commercial went viral on youtube â€“ Nandoâ€™s has since withdrawn the commercial, citing physical threats to staff and customers at the Nandoâ€™s fanchises inside Zimbabwe. Apparently, youth members of Mugabeâ€™s ZANU-PF party had begun to protest outside Nandoâ€™s chain stores in Harare and elsewhere in the country.
â€śWe 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 Nandoâ€™s staff and customers,â€ť South Africaâ€™s Times newspaper quoted Nandoâ€™s as saying on Wednesday.
Yet, the very fact that a chicken restaurant becomes a venue for political satire is an interesting statement about freedom of expression in South Africa, and the way in which South Africans talk about politics. For a country that itself emerged from more than four decades of racist authoritarian rule, political satire has a powerful effect, and acts as a release valve for tensions that still crop up in a society where racial and class differences still have the potential to divide.
â€śYou have a very different culture in South Africa, compared to other African countries,â€ť says Gus Silber, a journalist and screenwriter based in Johannesburg. â€śIn most other African countries, itâ€™s a crime to denigrate the head of state. So South Africa is a lot more open in that way.â€ť
Insulting the president is still a crime in Zimbabwe, a fact that may have led local Nandoâ€™s franchises to distance themselves from the South African ad campaign, with Musekiwa Kumbula, corporate affairs director for Nandoâ€™s biggest shareholder, calling the ad â€śinsensitive and in poor taste.â€ť
South African satire may be â€śa bit broaderâ€ť and stereotyped than the sophisticated commentary on Jon Stewartâ€™s Daily Show, Mr. Silber adds, but then again, South African politicians have a penchant for broad over-the-top statements and actions themselves.
Nandoâ€™s is certainly not the only source of satire in South Africa. Political cartoonist Zapiro portrays South African President Zuma with a showerhead coming out of his forehead, a reminder of Zumaâ€™s court statement in a rape trial that he had taken a shower after having what he insisted was consensual sex with a woman who was HIV positive. The online satirical website Hayibo has made a name for itself with nonsensical news articles such as this one about the Durban climate change conference, advising delegates to â€śthink globally, act locally, and panic internally.â€ť
Sipho Hlongwane, a political correspondent for the South African online news site iMaverick, says that while Americans are often cynical about the mainstream media â€“ and therefore seek out comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for a hint of political truth â€“ South Africans show â€śa little more respect for authority in the media, which actually leaves a massive gap for irreverenceâ€ť by satire outlets and yes, by chicken restaurants like Nandoâ€™s.
The Nandoâ€™s ad went down predictably well among the South African chattering class, Mr. Hlongwane adds, but â€śI doubt that it would be accepted any differently among poorer communities. They will have partly blamed Mugabeâ€™s regime for the influx of foreigners from Zimbabwe, which leads to xenophobic tensions which have never quite died down.â€ť
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