Nando’s restaurant group said Thursday it was pulling a television ad depicting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as the “last dictator standing,” citing perceived threats to its workers and customers by militants loyal to the ZANU-PF leader.
ZANU-PF youths backed by ZANU-PF-affiliated Chipangano Youth militants this week said the ad was offensive and disrespectful, calling for a boycott of Nando's.
The advertisement associated President Mugabe with dictators now part of history including Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Nando’s headquarters in South Africa said it took threats against its franchise workers in Zimbabwe seriously, calling its decision “the prudent step to take in a volatile climate."
"No TV commercial is worth risking the safety of Nando's staff and customers," said a statement issued by the chain, which specializes in tangy chicken.
Indigenization and Youth Ministry adviser Psychology Maziwisa said he applauded Nando’s for responding to the sensitivities of the Zimbabwean people.
"I'm glad they have come to their senses about their actions, that advert was obviously in bad taste," Maziwisa commented.
Nando's is well known for its comical but often controversial commercials.
In 2009 it was sued by Julius Malema, recently ousted as African National Congress Youth League president, for running an ad that made light of him.
Independent political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube said Nando’s could have run into serious trouble with ZANU-PF and its supporters if it refused to pull the ad.
"They know that they are putting at risk millions of Zimbabweans who are hostages to the government of President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF," Ncube said.
But commentator Rejoice Ngwenya told VOA the move does not augur well for marketing, saying Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF has stifled creativity.