By Violet Gonda:
Coca Cola Zimbabwe has become the latest international company to be accused of being a regime change agent, after the state controlled Herald newspaper claimed Tuesday that “questions have been raised” after the beverages giant launched a Zimbabwe’s “Crazy for Good’’ campaign featuring open palm symbols on its red Coca-Cola cans.
The open palm is the symbol of the MDC-T.
The Herald said: “What raised eyebrows is the fact that palms are on the red cans only and not on flavours that bear other colours like the blue Sprite or yellow Fanta cans. Red is MDC-T’s preferred colour.
“The timing of the campaign, coming as it does, just a few weeks before harmonised elections constitutionally scheduled for June 29 has raised suspicion,” The state controlled newspaper comments have forced Coca Cola Zimbabwe to deny links with the former opposition party.
SW Radio Africa moderated a panel discussion between Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka and ZANU PF’s deputy director of information, Psychology Maziwisa.
Tamborinyoka said that the allegations are not surprising and show the extent of ZANU PF’s paranoia. “Even chickens are working with the MDC-T because they have open feet which show the MDC-T symbol. Everyone according to the Herald is working with the MDC-T,” Tamborinyoka said.
Maziwisa responded by saying: “It is obvious the MDC-T will try to refute that but I think the evidence is quite clear. Coca Cola have only used the red can. They have shunned the Fanta Orange which has a yellow can. They have shunned Sprite and they have resorted to the use of the red colour which everybody knows is an MDC-T colour and they have used an open palm which everybody knows to be an MDC-T symbol.”
The ZANU PF deputy director of information said his party is taking this “very seriously” and “we hope that ZEC will intervene in the matter” and it is a case that is “likely to cause diplomatic problems between Zimbabwe and I presume South Africa”.
Maziwisa added: “We do not wish to explore that route but there is potential for friction there. We want our sovereignty and independence as a country to be respected. We want commercial entities to operate with us purely on commercial and business terms and not to delve into politics by supporting one political party.”
Observers say ZANU PF is inadvertently giving the MDC-T free publicity over what appears to be an innocent Coca Cola promotion.
Tamborinyoka said it is ‘ridiculous’ to make an issue of the red colour especially when the Herald newspaper masthead is red. “So can we say the Herald is the MDC-T because red is the MDC-T colour? If somebody beats up a woman here using a clenched fist, then we should take offense not because of a case of domestic violence but to say that he used a fist which is a ZANU PF symbol? It’s absurd,” said Tamborinyoka.
The marketing company denied involvement in politics and is quoted in the state newspaper saying the Coca Cola cans were meant for the South African market but ended up on store shelves in Zimbabwe because they had anticipated shortages of the brand in the country.
“We are in the business of refreshing consumers and we are not associated with politics at all. I am not sure how politicians are interpreting the message. The colour red has been our corporate colour for the past 125 years plus.
“So nothing should be misconstrued with what is on our advertisement. We are just a marketing company,” said Coca-Cola senior franchise brand manager Mona Karingi.
In November 2011, the Zimbabwean franchise of the chicken restaurant chain, Nando’s, had to distance itself from an advert released by its South African counterparts, which depicted President Robert Mugabe as ‘The last dictator standing’. ZANU PF said the advert denigrated Mugabe.