The ads – the idea of Brandhouse Beverages – show a group of men talking about the qualities they look for in a partner.
“I’m looking for a special person,” says one. “Someone who can handle heavy situations with a smile,” another states. A third man then says, “These hands will never let you go.”
As the camera zooms out, it becomes clear that the men are prisoners in a cell.
The message “They’d love to meet you. Never drink and drive” then appears at the bottom of the screen.
Lukas Muntingh of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative was critical of the ads, which began airing in late 2010.
“What is distressing is the near acceptance of sexual violence in prison and the fact that men are raped in prison. It is [now being] used to keep the public in fear of drinking and driving,” said Muntingh, who noted that if an ad directed at women used rape as a scare tactic, it would result in a public outcry.
Norman Reyneker, Brandhouse’s public relations director, said critics were taking the ads out of context.
“We wanted to create a campaign which didn’t simply create awareness but changed consumer behavior so that they never drink and drive again,” Reyneker stated. “The campaign is not about prison life. It is about the consequences of drunk driving.”
While implying that one of those consequences is prison rape, apparently. Reyneker claimed the ad, which was endorsed by the Road Traffic Management Organisation and the National Transport Department, had received over 30,000 hits on YouTube.
Perhaps not surprisingly, with the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 the number of prisoners in South Africa has dramatically increased and prison conditions have worsened. In 1992 South Africa had 104,790 prisoners, or 285 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens. Apartheid ended in 1994 with the African National Congress assuming power which it has held ever since. As of 2010, South Africa held 164,793 prisoners, or 331 prisoners per 100,000. South Africa has the largest prison population in Africa and the seventh largest in the world.
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