Young supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe are calling for a boycott of the Nando's chicken restaurant chain over its ad campaign in South Africa which mockingly depicts Mr. Mugabe as "the last dictator standing.”
Members of the Chipangano Youth organization, believed to be closely affiliated with the president's ZANU-PF party, say the ad undermines Mr. Mugabe's authority - a criminal offense in Zimbabwe though not in neighboring South Africa.
According to the Nando's website the chain has been doing business in Zimbabwe since 1993. the Nando's chain launched in South Africa in 1987.
Nando's executives in Zimbabwe said the ad being aired on some channels of the South African Broadcasting Corporation was “insensitive and in poor taste”.
The commercial shows President Mugabe dining alone with his dinner table set for departed dictators including the late Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Idi Amin of Uganda and Apartheid defender Peit Botha of South Africa.
Mr. Mugabe is also depicted singing with the late Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, who helped a younger Mugabe train and arm his Zimbabwe National Liberation Army in the 1960s on its way to ending Rhodesian white minority rule.
The Nando's ad has become an Internet hit with more than 258,000 views since it was launched last week. There were no indications Nando's would drop the ad though some observers are questioning whether it overstepped the bounds of appropriate advertising.
Political analyst Livingstone Dzikira said Nando’s should pull the ad so as not to cause problems in Zimbabwe. “It is a demeaning advert designed to ridicule the person of the president with a view of inciting hatred inside and outside Zimbabwe,” Dzikira said.
Independent commentator Charles Mangongera told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that Nando's has done nothing wrong in caricaturing President Mugabe.
Sabelo Ndlovu Gatsheni of the University of South Africa said the ad’s makers are fed up with dictators the world over and have resorted to using advanced Internet marketing skills to poke fun at what lately seems to be an endangered species.