The Zimbabwean franchise of the chicken restaurant chain, Nando's, has distanced itself from an advert released by its South African counterparts, which depicts Robert Mugabe as 'The last dictator standing'.
The advert depicts a Mugabe look-alike dining alone at Christmas and reminiscing about the good times with past despots. The video shows Mugabe having a water fight with former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, playing in the sand with Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and playing on swings with South African apartheid defender PW Botha.
Mugabe is also seen in a parody of the iconic 'flying' scene in the movie Titanic, with Idi Amin of Uganda on the back of a military tank. In a full version of the advert Mugabe is also depicted singing with the late Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong.
The official advert has now been viewed half a million times on Nando's South Africa's YouTube channel, with comments coming from viewers across the world. Fans and critics have also taken to social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook to share their views on the ad, with comments ranging from "brilliant" to "insensitive."
The ad has also been viewed in Zimbabwe, where insulting Mugabe can lead to lengthy jail terms. Mugabe loyalists have since reacted with anger and this week the head of the militant Chipangano gang called for the South Africa-based Nando's to withdraw the ad or face punitive action.
The group's leader, Jim Kunaka, said the restaurant chain risked action including a boycott.
The Zim franchise is now trying to protect itself by distancing itself from the South African advert and insisting it is independent of any campaign by its counterparts across the border.
Musekiwa Kumbula, corporate affairs director at Innscor Africa (holders of the Nando's franchise in Zimbabwe) said in a statement that the Innscor group "strongly feels the advertisement is insensitive and in poor taste."
Business tycoon Ray Kaukonde, a major stockholder in Innscor and a former provincial governor in ZANU PF, said the advertising 'denigrated' Mugabe. He called it "a violation of business ethics" and told the ZBC that it was "in total disregard of African values."
SW Radio Africa was still waiting for a reaction from Nando's in South Africa by the end of Wednesday.