It’s not often I turn my attention to matters political but this recent Nando’s ad debacle really got my goat. If you haven’t seen the ad, here it is:
A wonderfully humorous depiction of the head of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema – someone who truly doesn’t know his adze from his elbow-joint (if his high-school woodwork results are anything to go by).
And Nando’s has pulled this ad from broadcast. By backing down, Nando’s has left the door open for the ANCYL (and more importantaly, any other person, legal or natural) to bully whomever they want into submission whenever they see or hear something they don’t like without following due process (more about that a little later).
As a colleague of mine pointed out, “Nando’s got what they wanted. Everyone’s talking about them. They just want to sell chicken; not take a political stand.”
I don’t know so much about that.
Let’s be clear: from the reports, it appears that due process wasn’t followed. The ASA wasn’t approached, so this never went under review as is the norm. If it was a libel/crimen iniuria case it never went to trial. Instead, behind closed doors, the ANCYL forced Nando’s to pull the ad.
What does this mean for the rest of us? For people like Pieter Dirk-Uys, Zapiro, Jeremy Nell and the like? Is unpopular speech not protected in this country?
Satire is an ancient art dating as far back as the time of the Roman empire and Martial’s “Epigrams”. And the existence of satire is a symptom of a healthy society.
Politicians (like professional athletes, movie stars etc) are public figures and their deeds (and words) are public domain. So when the chickens come home to roost, we as the public have the right to highlight these shortcomings. We can poke fun at them and comment about their misdeeds (without resorting to hate speech) because they put themselves out there. It comes with the territory. And now we’re being shown that some are above the processes that govern this right.
Or am I just blowing this all out of proportion?
NB: I have no loyalty to any political party. This post is not a criticism of the ANCYL (although I don’t agree with its policies or its existence). It’s about what this case means in a greater context of this country’s democracy and the freedom of speech.