By Justice Malala
“You mustn’t try to associate with people who condemn a dictator, then do business with his cronies”
I see it is an offence in Zimbabwe to insult President Robert Mugabe or undermine the “authority of his office”. That puts paid to my long-planned festive season trip to Zimbabwe. Because I am about to insult the lousy dictator and undermine his authority in the next few paragraphs.
I have been insulting Mugabe for a decade now and he is still in power — and still torturing opposition candidates and stealing elections. Give the old boy his due. When it comes to staying power he is up there with the best of them — Muammar Gaddafi, Omar Bongo (these two worthies clung to power for 42 years) and others of that ilk.
They, too, had ridiculous laws saying one could not insult them. My dilemma is this: for me to undermine your authority, you must have authority in the first place. But what authority can one ascribe to a man who oversaw a massacre in the 1980s, a state-caused famine in the 1990s and electoral fraud on a grand scale in the 2000s?
Not to mention the little matter of political corruption, economic mismanagement and the repeated use of Singaporean hospitals for enhancement of the flagging libido.
There goes my holiday. I won’t miss it. Who wants to go on holiday in such a terribly mismanaged country? You spend your whole day feeling sorry for people. I am going to Mauritius instead, where the people are happy, the economy is well run and foreign direct investment is pouring in.
I see the Nando’s chicken franchise has, as the newspaper headline put it, “chickened out” by pulling a TV advertisement making fun of Mugabe. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Nando’s ran a fabulous advert in SA showing Mugabe about to have Christmas dinner on his own.
The table is set for an array of Mugabe friends: Gaddafi, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and others. They are all gone now, and a wistful Mugabe falls into a reverie, remembering things past.
Overlaid with Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were The Days” — a wistful, nostalgia-inducing song — the advert shows Mugabe engaging in a water-pistol fight with Gaddafi, who wields a truly phallic, blinged-up golden AK-47. It then moves on to Mugabe cavorting on the beach with Saddam, playing with Idi Amin and singing with Chairman Mao.
It is beautiful. So why did Nando’s pull it? This is an advert that has had more than 1m hits on YouTube.
“We’ve noted with concern the political reaction emanating out of Zimbabwe, including perceived threats against Nando’s Zimbabwe’s management, staff and customers,” the company said, announcing that it would no longer flight the advert.
This is my problem with SA business. When the time comes to stand up and speak out against dictatorships, its tail slips between its legs. SA business has been tjoepstil (nervously silent) while a bunch of nutters have called for nationalisation, expropriation of mines and other mayhem.
To say that Bobby Godsell and Bheki Sibiya have been alone in speaking up against this nonsense would be an understatement. Those two are banished to Siberia. That’s SA business for you: keep quiet and pocket the large bonus.
Anyway, as my friend John Perlman asks, if Mugabe is a dictator and has been doing terrible things in Zimbabwe — as the Nando’s advert implies — then why is Nando’s there? Worse still, its business partner in that country is reportedly Ray Kaukonde, one of the provincial leaders of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
So here’s a tip: you mustn’t try to associate in your adverts with people who condemn a dictator then do business with his cronies the rest of the time.
Still, it was a bloody good advert and anything that makes Mugabe squirm makes me happy. So when my friend Frans Mojela said he was in the Jo’burg CBD I pointed him towards Nando’s on Gandhi Square.
On the day of the Zimbabwean threats against Nando’s, it was packed.
Never have so many people demanded so many birds. We had our full chicken hot, with chips on the side. Here’s the thing: many sell chicken, but Nando’s does it better than most, if not all. The meat was grilled just right, the sauces were excellent and the place was clean and cheerful and full of light.
But what a pity Nando’s did not have the courage to stay away from Zimbabwe. FM.co.za