Here's the Xenophobia-Mocking Fast Food Ad Banned on South African TV

A Nando's ad has been accused of inflaming the very racial anxieties it's satirizing.

The food at South African fast food chain Nando's is delicious, part of why they've spread to 30 countries on almost every continent, including the U.S. Another possible reason is the company's famously provocative, humorous, and/or (depending on your perspective) offensive ads. There was the baffling 2009 Australian ad focusing on a soccer star's rear end, the controversial 2010 ad suggesting South African women walk around topless to conform to World Cup-watching foreigner's stereotypes about Africans, another in 2010 mocking President Jacob Zuma's polygamy, and the much-circulated 2011 "last dictators" spot. Often, they hit quite deliberately on touchy political controversies, such as the 2009 ad lampooning extremist South African politician Julius Malema, which got banned.

Now, Nando's has done it again with an ad satirizing xenophobia in South Africa, where both public broadcaster SABC and popular satellite broadcaster DStv have banned it. "You know what's wrong with South Africa: all you foreigners," the ad opens, picking through the many immigrant groups (many of which, after centuries here, no longer consider themselves immigrants) and telling them to get out. Even the Zulu and Venda -- major South African ethnic groups -- are told to "go home" (where?). At the end, only a traditionally dressed Khoisan man is left. "I'm not going anywhere, you *&$!@#* found us here!" he says, according to the captions. The narrator concludes, "Real South Africans love diversity," going on to explain why this means people should buy their latest chicken platter.

The South African broadcasters say that the ads are "offensive," contain "xenophobic undertones," and "might further inflame an already sensitive situation." Race is indeed sensitive in South Africa, where the legacy and resentments of apartheid still linger, and where an impressive but imperfect democracy is still struggling to incorporate the diverse communities that have been settling here for centuries, coming from Europe, India, the Arabian Peninsula, and other parts of Africa to make it one of the world's most diverse societies. Diversity isn't always easy, and South African politics often flare up around issues of immigration and race.

Broadcasters' skepticism at challenging xenophobia through fried chicken ads is understandable, but it's ironic that they would choose to ban the Nando's ad that actually challenges stereotypes rather than reinforcing them (polygamy is funny! African women should take their clothes off!). It's also ironic that the networks would see "xenophobic undertones" in an ad clearly designed to satirize xenophobia. With Apartheid's death less than 20 years in the past, maybe these issues are still a little too hot for South Africa.

Presented by

Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Global

Just In