HARARE fast food outlet Chicken Slice opened its first restaurant in Bulawayo on Saturday — but it immediately ran into trouble with locals after misspelling basic isiNdebele words on its display advertising.
Furious Bulawayo residents took to social networks to blast the company’s bosses over what they saw as a total disregard for the locally-spoken language.
A display wall advert at the company’s outlet on 9th Avenue and Fort Street features the words “Umkwenyana uqobo uyabuya le Chicken Slice”, which should have read “Umkhwenyana oqotho uza le Chicken Slice.”
Loosely translated to English, the marketing message is that “a good son-in-law brings Chicken Slice.”
Scores of afternoon shoppers were yesterday observed staring at the billboard and wondering how it went for printing and was finally put on the wall without anybody noticing the mistake.
Jay Bafana, writing on Facebook, said “over and above everything, the whole advert is contextually meaningless in Ndebele culture.”
He blasted: “Culturally, Ndebele mothers-in-law and Ndebele sons-in-law don’t exchange prepared food. They don’t even eat together or around each other. The advert is a translation of a culture that isn’t Ndebele.”
Mbuso Jubane said: “This is criminal.”
Brian Slowmo (@Brian_Slowmo), writing on Twitter, added: “Chicken Slice shouldn’t just remove their advertising boards, but apologise to the Ndebele community. Such disrespect!”
In heated exchanges, others however thought Bulawayo residents were overreacting.
A man using the name Man O’ Colour (@phareye) said on Twitter: “I think people in Matabeleland need to slow down a little on attributing every error to tribalism #WeAintThatGeneration <https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAintThatGeneration?src=hash>.”
Chicken Slice marketing manager Bernadette Mutoko acknowledged the error and said the billboard would be removed immediately and reprinted.
“We consulted people we thought knew the language. It’s unfortunate that nobody picked it up until today. We apologise for the mistake and promise that we’ll remove the billboard and get it re-printed with the correct isiNdebele,” said Mutoko.
“We asked a number of people for the correct isiNdebele version of the advert and we came up with different phrases. We then asked three people from Megafest Bulawayo and we didn’t realise that it was still wrong.”
The Chicken Slice billboard is one of the many adverts that have sparked outrage amongst speakers of isiNdebele, who feel their language is being deliberately destroyed and undermined.
In 2011, a Harare-based company had to pull down six billboards posted along Luveve road after all the Ndebele words were spelt wrong.
After protests by residents including the then Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor Thaba Moyo, words like Emagetsini and Matshobane that had been spelt Emagestini and Musthubani, were corrected.
Recently in Beitbridge, a billboard advert meant to deliver a domestic-violence awareness message to the targeted Ndebele speaking audience achieved the opposite after sparking outrage from locals for mutilating the Ndebele language.
Mobile network provider Telecel has also come in the eye of a storm in Plumtree with a billboard that has misspelt Ndebele words.
Beverage giant Delta, was forced to issue an apology after misspelling Ndebele names on promotional soft drinks cans. Some of the products were written Sokuluthe and Khetiwe, instead of Sukoluhle and Khethiwe.
Questions have been asked of the government’s commitment in promoting other local languages in Zimbabwe as per constitutional requirements.
Meanwhile, the new Chicken Slice branch brings to nine the company’s number of outlets in the country.
Company founder and director Tawanda Mutyebere told Business Chronicle that the opening of their new outlet in Bulawayo was part of their expansion drive. “We’re presently working on opening another outlet in Gweru soon,” he said.
Mutyebere would not be drawn into revealing how much his company has invested in the expansion programme.
“We’re not able to disclose to the market the amount we’ve invested for our expansion project. But our expansion initiative still continues and we hope to roll out more outlets to different parts of the country outside Harare in the coming year,” said Mutyebere.
Chicken Slice is owned by Packers International, whose other brands include Pizza Slice, Creamy Slice and Slice Express. The company began operations in 2010 when the first outlet was opened in Mvuma.
The opening up of new branches in other cities and towns outside Harare is likely to increase competition in the sector currently dominated by Innscor through its Bakers Inn, Fish Inn, Chicken Inn, Steers, Nandos and Creamy Inn brands.