Democrazy, Xenophobia and the unpalatability of Nandos

South Africans take pride in referring to South Africa as a Rainbow nation. This is because of the country’s diversity in race and culture. However, the recent attacks on foreigners in Durban and Johannesburg has exposed a truth that for many South Africans is a ‘tough pill to swallow’. The attacks have contradicted the rhetoric of inclusivity, human rights and ties to the rest of Africa. The violence against foreigners that erupted in Durban and spread to Johannesburg is not unprecedented, the violence is a reawakening of an unsettling monster that political leaders have failed to bury following the xenophobic violence of 2008.

The reminder of the logic of diminishing circles of inclusion in the country takes me back to two things that have defined my vitriolic hate for violence against foreigners. One being the research I undertook for my honours dissertation on Somali migrants living and working in Mayfair, Johannesburg, and the other being a satirical ad released by Nandos following the 2008 Xenophobic attacks. While the research provided powerful insight into the lived realities of African migrants in South Africa, it is the ad that invites South Africans to reflect on what it really means to be South African in a world characterised by the flexible mobility of people.

Mild, Lemon and Herb or Peri-Peri, Nando’s offers a casual dining experience, delicious chicken and some ingeniously crafted advertisements that hit a chord, commenting on South African current affairs. The ad which is still available on youtube was banned by South African broadcasters shortly after it was released. It was banned on the grounds of its ‘unorthodox’ way of tackling issues of diversity and xenophobia.

The ad begins with a group of ‘foreign’ Africans jumping through a fence at the South African Border, with the voice over artist saying, “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners”.The ad continues to depict daily life with snapshots of the city capturing everyday South Africans in their stereotyped undertakings. The Asians are offloading shipped goods, the Afrikaaner is driving his ‘bakkie’ with his dog seated next to him and labourers at the back of the vehicle. White South Africans are in their car parked on a dodgy corner being approached by Nigerians. The South Asians are in a factory. As the voice over lists the different nationalities, “you Cameroonians, Congolese, Pakistani’s, Somali’s, Ghanians” etc they all vanish in a puff of smoke. Before you think it’s discriminatory to other African ‘foreigners’, Black South Africans including Zulu’s Tswana’s, Sotho’s and Venda’s are all called out and vanishing in a puff of smoke. The last shot is of a Khoi-san man, the ‘true’ South African who says,”I’m not going anywhere, you found us here”

“Real South African love diversity”.

On a historical premise, this ad is correct. All South Africans are in a ‘twisted’ way foreigners – all striving to live in a peaceful, happy and tolerant environment. The public broadcaster justified the ban to the ad stating that it enrages people and fuels xenophobic attacks. I didn’t and still don’t believe that this ad incites violence. On the contrary, it seeks to unite us and encourage South Africans to shatter the illusion that their problems can be solved through the exclusion of certain people. South Africa has had a brutal past, and the materialisation of those violent excesses in the contemporary moment needs good leadership to supress the rise in hate crime and uphold the democratic principles.