Daniel Howden: The chicken who made them cross

Africa Notebook: Nando's decided to use Mr Malema's public persona for an opportunistic laugh
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The Independent Online

South Africa's proud tradition of public protest came perilously close this last week to taking a detour into the ridiculous. The same movement that once marched for civil rights and justice in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre was poised to be deployed to the streets in order to picket a fried chicken franchise, thanks to the country's most obnoxious politician.

In the court of new president Jacob Zuma, the ANC youth league leader Julius Malema, below, is very definitely the jester. But he's not a fool who can take a joke.

The Nando's fast food chain decided to use Mr Malema's increasingly outrageous public persona for an opportunistic laugh. The ad features a puppet figure named "Julius" telling a television presenter about the amazing change that is coming to the country. It turns out that the change that the Malema puppet is talking about is change from a 50 rand note on an order of fried chicken.

A modest joke but it was enough to get an incensed Mr Malema demanding the ad be pulled or he would use the might of Africa's grandest liberation movement to protest outside Nando's restaurants in a "militant action". It was "racist", screamed the injured party. An accusation he has made against practically everyone running against the ANC.

Sadly the Portuguese-based restaurant chain chickened out and pulled the spot, but only after airing a variant in which the features and voice of the puppet were disguised in the style of a crime reconstruction while a message flashed up that this was being done to "protect innocent parties".

Mandela lives, ok

Scouring Soweto in search of someone who isn't an ANC voter can be arduous work. In Orlando East on the street where Nelson Mandela, right, used to live it's a pointless task. Rubs Baliwa, a pavement musician, can tell you why. It's not that people in Soweto are delighted with progress. It's just that until Madiba dies everyone will vote ANC. "While he's still alive there's no way my mother could vote for anyone else," he adds. "She'd feel like she was letting him down."

Sly slogan

There's no way to avoid the ANC's slogan "Working together we can do more". If you blanked it in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu, you will find it in Greek, Italian or Portuguese. For those that looked closely there was a note of defiant satire. In one suburb of Johannesburg the official posters had been joined by one that read: "Working together, we can steal more". There's a thought.