Nando’s Adds Some Flava

Free speech and Julius Malema are hot topics at the moment, certainly on Longwind, and they have converged nicely in the recent Nando’s ad, which until recently featured a puppet called Julius. The mildly amusing ad lampooned the call for change that is current electioneering favourite, with Julius claiming that if you buy your chicken with a hundred, you get more change than you paid in the first place.

In competition with the ridiculous mess of inanity that is TV advertising, it’s a pretty good ad. I’d like to think that it’s been conceived as a protest against the meaningless promises that pollute our airwaves at election time, and against the particular level of stupidity that currently leads the youth league. Certainly, if that’s its intention, it hits the mark pretty well.

Enter the sensitive conscience of the ANC Youth League, an organisation that benefits frequently from the minimal accountability afforded by free speech, here protecting a man made famous for threatening to kill whoever stands in the way of Zuma’s presidency (metaphorically, of course; literally speaking, he would only have eliminated them). The following is an official statement, though it is no longer available on the ANC YL site:

The African National Congress Youth League calls for the immediate withdrawal of the disgusting Nandos television and radio advertisements which uses cheap satire to undermine electoral politics in South Africa. Whatever is the lousy explanation of the Nandos advertisement, the ANC YL is fully aware that the advertisement is intended at mocking the President of the ANC YL, and in a racist fashion portrays political leaders as Cartoons.

The ANC YL has commissioned our Lawyers to investigate the legal issues that could arise around the whole advertisement, and they will soon advise us on action. While awaiting the legal advice, the ANC YL instructs the Nandos Company and those who did the advertisement to promptly withdraw the advert from all television screens and radio channels. If Nandos does not withdraw the adverts, the ANC YL will mobilise the people of South Africa to take militant action against Nandos and anything associated with Nandos.

Of course they have a point that it is racist, because white people never appear in cartoons, especially not white political leaders.

Zapiro Bush

Zapiro Bush

But beyond that, have they never heard of free speech? If this pillow-fight-like assault on Julius constitutes unacceptable disrespect of a political ‘leader’, then is any protest against ridiculous officials allowed?

What’s more, they are not just voicing outrage (‘disgusting’, ‘cheap’, ‘racist’), they’re threatening concrete action, that is, to incite citizens to take ‘militant action against Nandos and anything associated with Nandos’.

At least we can be moderately pleased that, should they make good on this threat and decide to invade Portugal, the ANC YL will have found a use for our expensive naval fleet.

It seems as though the Youth League has indeed heard of free speech, albeit freedom in a rather supine position:

The brief statement concluded that the league “strongly believes in freedom of expression and creativity which respects other people and organisations”. (From http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-04-24-nandos-not-chickening-out-over-julius-ad)

One has to wonder whether expression is really free when it is prohibited from ‘disrespecting’ public figures who are thoroughly deserving of criticism. One wonders whether we are really free when entire parties support leaders even when they threaten to kill their opponents, but will not allow even the friendliest of jibes to be offered in return. Freedom of speech is protected precisely because it is so dangerous when the State commands the right to decide what is sufficiently respectful, and whose opinions are allowed to be heard in public.

Kudos then to Nando’s for their clever response. Rather than bothering with court cases and debates with the poor, sensitive victims of their disgusting attack, they immediately agreed to withdraw the offending advertisement, only to replace it with an identical one that has Julius pixelled out and his voice altered, and a tickertape running to explain that identities need to be protected to avoid offence.

Not only does the ad retain its protest against the stupidity of certain ‘leaders’, but it also neatly adds a deft criticism of the restriction of freedom that the ANC YL perpetrated in demanding censorship. Good on them for the rather large ideological nose-thumbing to salute our budding young political hypocrites.

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6 thoughts on “Nando’s Adds Some Flava

  1. Jordan Pickering says:

    By the way, the comparison with those in the Christian community who over-reacted to Sax Appeal is not lost on me. It is to our great shame that we have been instrumental in opening the door to this kind of behaviour, and giving it a big religious stamp of approval.

    Let’s just hope that state control doesn’t catch on any further, and, when it comes time for Christians to stand for freedom, that we have not squandered our right to speak up.

  2. inks75 says:

    How interesting! I can stay updated on all this nonsense through Longwind!! It is a bit scary at the same time!!!
    I think we’ll have Nandos for lunch ;)

  3. Mary says:

    Jordan, I do think that the analogy between the Christian response to the Sax Appeal incident and the ANCYL response to the Nando’s-Malema incident is not all that accurate. While outrage was expressed by both parties (and I think Christians are quite correct in expressing outrage at blasphemy), the Christian community did not threaten militant action or legal repercussions. I think that as much as our laws should provide for free speech so that it is possible to say things which offend others without the fear of legal action, it is quite appropriate for us to express ourselves when we find something offensive, rather than implying that something is ok by our silence. For example, if someone insults your wife verbally, you should be allowed to call him a jerk of the highest order (and would, I am sure, consider it your duty to do so), but you shouldn’t be allowed to beat him into a pulp.

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      Hi, Mary. Unfortunately that’s not true, which is one of the reasons I got so involved in the issue.

      Granted, Errol Naidoo’s original response (a relatively vague call for expression of outrage and unspecified action) might be construed as a valid approach under free plural society, and not as oversensitive pressure-grouping. However, I spoke to a member of Errol Naidoo’s organisation who said that they understood Sax to be hate speech; the CDA made calls for national boycotts and human rights organisations to intervene; a minister writing to the letters page of the Cape Times claimed to have laid a formal hate speech charge; and the VC of UCT made a public statement to say that they had received vulgar insults and death threats (though he did not release any of the offending letters into the public domain).

      So, except for the fact that there was no obvious place for us to direct our activism (such as a Nando’s), we did exactly the same thing, so much so that you could change the names on the ANC YL statement and definition of free speech, and it would be a near-perfect match for Christian rhetoric. So, Christians who applauded the ‘brave unified stand’ of Christians against Sax Appeal have very little non-hypocritical ground to stand on if they disapprove of the ANC YL behaviour.

      • Jordan Pickering says:

        It’s not qualitatively different, I don’t think?

        The Christian Party calls for the immediate withdrawal of the disgusting Sax Appeal Magazine which uses cheap satire to undermine the Christian faith in South Africa. Whatever is the lousy explanation of the ’10 Atheist Retorts…’ article, the Christian Party is fully aware that the article is intended at mocking our beloved Lord, and in a blasphemous fashion ridicules him with vulgar language.

        The Christian Party has commissioned our Lawyers to investigate the legal issues that could arise around the whole article, and they will soon advise us on action. While awaiting the legal advice, the Christian Party instructs UCT and the magazine sponsors and the magazine editors to promptly withdraw the magazine from all retail outlets. If Pick n Pay does not withdraw the magazine, the Christian Party will mobilise the people of South Africa to boycott all their stores until proper redress is made.

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Jordan. I received the initial email from a friend and it didn’t seem to be on the same level to me.

    Yes, I agree that the CDA resorting to legal recourse is not helpful. Unfortunately, we have a thing called “hate speech” in our legal system. While I agree that there are forms of speech which are indeed hateful and shouldn’t be used in terms of them being intentionally hurtful and poor taste, making them illegal is problematic in terms of free speech.

    I don’t have a problem with the call to boycott. It’s a simple matter of economic supply and demand. We get what we are prepared to pay for.

    I greatly doubt that the vulgar letters with death threats were sent from any Christian organization. They were very likely sent by a few hot-tempered students, so I’m not sure that they should be included in the official “Christian response”. One cannot take the actions of a few individuals as an indication of the general feeling.

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