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.
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