Hands Off My Mandela: Hong Kong Travel Agent Told To Pull Ad

Written by Dana Sanchez

The South African consulate in Hong Kong cited copyright infringement Tuesday when it ordered a travel company to pull a front-page ad featuring an image of Nelson Mandela.

The three-column ad by the online travel agency Zuji shows Mandela with fist raised after his 1990 release from 27 years of imprisonment in apartheid South Africa. The ad ran on the front page of the English-language South China Morning Post, according to an AFP report in CapitalFM.

The late anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was sandwiched between images of airplanes and hotels with the word “freedom” advertising Zuji’s global travel network, AFP reports.

“Nelson Mandela’s image is never to be used for commercial use,” said Bryonie Guthrie, political consul for the South African consulate, in an AFP interview.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation holds the copyright for the use of the stylized image – one that echoes the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, the report said.

“In South Africa, even his own charities are discouraged from ever using his image for commercial use,” she said, adding the ad was “quite strange.” The company agreed to pull the ad, and no further action would be taken, Guthrie said.

Mandela’s image and name can be found on streets and stadiums, caps and T-shirts, the report said. His foundation is protective of misuse of its founder’s brand.

Other attempts to capitalize on the Mandela name or image resulted in blowback, including Oscar-winning South African actress Charlize Theron auctioning off face time with Mandela, and a book by Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso that claimed the foreword was written by Mandela.

In December the foundation had 18 registered trademarks for legal action against inappropriate use, primarily for commercial exploitation, AFP reports.