Why did Nandos chicken cross the road?
By Kudakwashe Natasha Maradzika
Q. Why did Nandos chicken cross the road?
A. Because they didn’t see Robert Mugabe coming round the corner...or did they?
Nandos, the bearers of cheeky poultry have struck again! As part of its festive advertising campaign Nandos South Africa released ‘The Last Dictator’, a satirical advert that features a President Robert Mugabe doppelgänger reminiscing about the fun he had with the autocratic Ghosts of Dictatorship’s past. Idi Amin, Mao Tse Tung, Saddam Hussein, P.W Botha and Muammar Gaddafi, cavort merrily with Robert Mugabe to Mary Hopkin's nostalgia-infused and historically macabre ‘Those Were the Days’. The punch line culminates with Robert Mugabe sitting by an empty dinner table and reads ‘Nandos festive meal, because no one should eat alone this Christmas’. The advert clearly highlights how Robert Mugabe is fast becoming the sole member of the increasingly rare Africanus dictatorus species.
Nandos is known for its humorous and at times irreverent adverts that almost always touch on some form of social commentary. A ploy, which according to its marketing team seeks to ‘foster healthy socio-political’ debate. Last year Nandos came under heavy scrutiny from African National Congress Youth League, (ANYCYL) supporters for the Julius Malema ‘We want change’ advert. The advert poked fun at the then ANYCYL’s leader’s radical calls for revolution and change...in the form of Nandos meal options of course... bad um tsh! As a company that relies heavily on social media to spread commercial messages, it seems Nandos’ strategy is based on producing polarizing material that the liberal-minded will chuckle at and share with their friends and that the conservative will find distasteful and invariably speak against. A clever strategy, if you consider the old showbiz adage, ‘any publicity is good publicity’. But is it really?
Given that freedom of press in Zimbabwe is about as commonplace as an ice glacier in the Sahara and also considering the fact that it is illegal to ridicule President Mugabe in Zimbabwe one can only cringe at how ‘well’ the advert was received. Throw in the fact that Nandos Zimbabwe was completely unaware of the campaign for good measure and you have a foolproof recipe for trouble. After an affiliate ZANU-PF political movement, the Chipangano Youth Organization, issued threats to Nandos employees in Zimbabwe, Nandos South Africa decided to remove the advert from satellite TV viewership across Africa and promptly issued an apology.
The apology came across as a bit of an after-thought for some, considering that Nandos had already substantially benefitted from the political brouhaha, reaching close to 600 000 YouTube views of the advert in a week. ‘Just selfish, anything for a laugh, huh?’ and ‘I’m disappointed Nandos was so insensitive about this’, were just some of the comments posted on Zimbabwe forums on facebook. Some duly noted how the advert ‘forces Zimbabweans to question why we blindly accept the unjustified victimisation of innocents as retaliation for a work of satire by a brutal dictator’. Others simply and honestly stated how ‘all this talk’ had them ‘craving Nandos’. Objective achieved.
Perhaps the quasi-tragic thing about this furore is the fact that the Nandos Comedy Festival that was scheduled for Harare on the 15th of December had to be cancelled. Nandos Zimbabwe organisers felt that the festival would have ‘further aggravated the situation’ as some of the South African artists that were scheduled to perform are well known for ridiculing President Mugabe. The real people who lost out the most in the end are Zimbabwean comedians who would have had the chance to perform along-side regionally renowned comedians. Ordinary Zimbabwean civilians who don’t always have a lot to laugh about seem to have ironically also lost the chance to have something to really smile about.
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