A MILITANT youth group loyal to Zimbabwe’s president has called for a boycott of the Nando’s restaurant chain after its new TV commerical depicted the authoritarian president as “the last dictator standing”.
The advertisement shows a Robert Mugabe lookalike dining alone at Christmas, his empty table set for departed dictators including Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.
To Mary Hopkin’s hit song Those Were The Days, the commercial shows “Mugabe” reminiscing about his times with former dictators. It portrays him and Gaddafi engaging in a water-pistol fight, with Gaddafi gleefully wielding a golden AK-47 squirt gun.
The ersatz Mugabe also makes sand angels with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, sings 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 film Titanic.
Zimbabwe’s state radio quoted the head of the Chipangano youth group – which is allied to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party – calling for South Africa-based Nando’s to withdraw the advert that depicts Mugabe or face punitive action. Jimu Kunaka, the head of Chipangano, said the restaurant chain risked action including a boycott.
Chipangano styles itself a “brotherhood” of Mugabe loyalists. The head of Nando’s Zimbabwe franchise said it was not informed of the South African television and press campaign, and said it is independent of the South African franchise.
Musekiwa Kumbula, corporate affairs director at Innscor Africa, holder 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.
The Innscor group “strongly feels the advertisement is insensitive and in poor taste,” he said.
However, he added: “No consultation takes place between franchises when they are formulating marketing strategies.”
It is an offence under Zimbabwe law to insult Mugabe or undermine the authority of his office.
Mugabe once maintained close ties with Gaddafi. But relations became strained over payments for a petrol deal during acute fuel shortages and shortly before the Libyan leader befriended Western leaders such as former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom Mugabe harshly criticised for his policies toward Zimbabwe.
Maoist China helped train Mugabe’s guerrillas to end white rule in the former British colony of Rhodesia, and Mugabe has been a frequent visitor to China.
Mugabe played host to Saddam Hussein at a world summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986. And though Mugabe was a sharp critic of apartheid-era South African president PW Botha – depicted in the commercial being pushed on a swing by Mugabe – apartheid South Africa remained Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner.
Business tycoon Ray Kaukonde, a major shareholder 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,” state radio reported.
State radio said Chipangano demanded an apology be made for the “negative portrayal” of Mugabe, 87, who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980.