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Cultural sensitivities still haunt South Africans

The Eskom advertisement featuring characters referred to as Izinyoka ("snakes") stealing electricity cables, offended some people who complained that the ad created the impression that only black people steal electricity cables. These critics alleged that the ad was therefore discriminatory and offensive. The word "Izinyoka" was also criticised as it has a negative connotation.
Eskom argued that the ad is part of a campaign to reduce the high rate of electricity wire theft. In this context, the word "Izinyoka" is used to describe an untrustworthy person who goes behind people's backs to do something detrimental to society.

Eskom added that the campaign is intended to assist communities that suffer the most from this type of criminal act, i.e. the townships. Eskom said the allegation of racism or discrimination is unfounded as the ad shows in a realistic manner a black cable thief selling the cable to a white man. Both are seen to end up in prison.

After careful consideration, the ASA decided the ad contained no insinuation of racism, discrimination or inducement of fear.

In a culturally diverse society it is to be expected that such issues will regularly surface. Previous examples include the Med-Lemon case featuring a traditional healer and the Hi-Fi Corporation ad depicting a Chinese man in the act of bargaining. It is essential that advertisers familiarise themselves with the core values of various cultural groups and ensure that those values are not ridiculed in any way.


Editorial contact
Advertising Standards Authority

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