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Johannesburg - The animated advertisement begins with the words “Dinner time at Nkandla” appearing over an image of a mansion.
The next frame is indoors. A woman, seated at one end of an extremely long dining room table lined by children and several other women on both sides, says in isiZulu: “Oh Zuzulicious, we’re having fish and chips from Shabba today.”
The huge family is enjoying a dinner of fish and chips.
An animated President Jacob Zuma responds: “Eat up honey bunch, there is a lot of good food here. It’s from the Fish and Chip Company. There are many of you in this house, at only R25 even Pravin will approve this.”
The ad was supposed to be aired on SABC on Monday night until February, but was pulled just two hours before it was scheduled to be flighted for the first time.
Paul Warner, the creative director at MetropolitanRepublic Group, the agency that produced the ad, said the SABC had told the group that the commercial was banned because it was “degrading to the president”.
“They said our [SABC] bosses have made the decision not to flight it,” he said.
Warner, who said there was nothing degrading about the ad, did not understand how it could be pulled on the basis of being offensive without anyone having complained about it.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never had an ad be banned before it was even aired,” he said.
Warner said the agency had submitted the commercial to the SABC more than two weeks ago and was not given a chance to react to it being pulled at the last minute.
Carlo Gonzaga, the chief executive of Taste Holdings, under which the Fish and Chip Company falls, said it was “astounding” that the SABC would take a unilateral decision about the ad on behalf of the public. “I think it’s presumptuous.”
Gonzaga said the company had already paid R1.5 million in media bookings for the commercial.
There was nothing offensive about the ad, he stressed, and if anything, it was encouraging the public – as the government had been doing – to tighten belts.
“It’s satire to say even the president must tighten his belt because of the tough economic times.”
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said he was not aware of the ad or any SABC officials issuing instructions for a commercial not to be aired.
This is not the first time the national broadcaster has interfered in content involving the president.
The SABC’s head of news, Jimi Matthews, has forbidden news staff from referring to Zuma’s private Nkandla property as a “homestead” or “compound”, and has banned the use of “Nkandlagate” or “Zumaville” in the public broadcaster’s reporting.
The instructions were issued to news editors almost a month ago in an e-mail that The Star has seen.
Editorial staff were instructed “with immediate effect” that Zuma’s “Nkandla home should be referred to as the president’s, or Mr Zuma’s, Nkandla residence”, and not a “compound” or “homestead” or “any other such term”.
Matthews’s instruction came shortly after Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj criticised the word compound, saying it was a term used by white South Africans to refer to homes for “black migrant workers, it comes from our racial past”.