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“Let’s go fighters”

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Clicks protest: Malema tells members to be combat-ready.

Pictures: Soraya Crowie

Johannesburg – Clicks, the health and beauty retailer which has found itself in the middle of an a racial storm after an offensive advertisement was published on its website last week, could face more trouble.

EFF leader Julius Malema vowed on Monday that the nationwide protest that affected at least 37 Clicks stores in five provinces would continue on Tuesday. He told the protesting EFF members to be “combat-ready” for Tuesday.

The retailer sparked racial outrage on social media after it published a promotional TRESemmé campaign on its website which referred to black women’s hair as damaged, dry and dull, comparing it with images of white women’s hair which was described as fine, flat and normal.

At the weekend, the EFF leadership mobilised its members to shut down Clicks stores for a week and called on the retailer to announce the names of those responsible for the advert.

The retailer also approached the courts in a bid to interdict the EFF from protesting, but their court bid was dismissed with costs.

This is not the first time that racial tensions have been ignited in South Africa over hair. In 2016, the Pretoria High School for Girls was at the centre of a storm when tempers flared as black learners protested over what they called racist incidents relating to the institution’s hair policies.

At the time, some of the girls said they were made to straighten their hair and avoid African styles like the Afro. Others alleged they had been called “monkeys”.

The H&M clothing store in Menlyn Mall was trashed by EFF supporters to protest against a hoodie slogan.
 Picture: Thobile Mathonsi ANA

In 2018, H&M stores were stormed by EFF supporters, who took issue with the degrading of black people in the form of their children’s hoodie advert.

The online campaign featured two children, a white child seen wearing an orange hoodie with the writing, “Mangrove Jungle Survival expert”, and a black child in a green hoodie with the words, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. The group was accused of being racist and lacking in diversity.

In the latest racial storm, Clicks said it would be taking “precautionary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our customers and our employees”.

Despite the apology issued by Clicks chief executive Vikesh Ramsunder, the EFF has stuck to their word that they will shut down operations at Clicks stores this week, saying the apology was not satisfactory.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu, who led the Sandton City shutdown, said they would keep Clicks stores closed until their demands were met and a name of who approved the advert is given to them.

“We are here today to say no to racism and that Clicks must fall until they comply with all the demands we have given them, because racism must be treated as such, it must be resisted, it must be rejected everywhere and we are going to be here to make sure this store doesn’t open. If it means we come back tomorrow, we will come back tomorrow, the whole of the week until they accede to the demands we have given as the EFF,” said Shivambu.

According to Clicks, there were protests at 37 stores across the country – in the Northern Cape, KZN, Gauteng, the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo – and that there was direct damage to seven stores, including the Saveways store in Witbank and the Cycad store in Polokwane.

“Clicks strongly condemns violence of any kind or intimidation of staff and its customers. Clicks will take legal action against perpetrators and those seeking to incite violence or harm our people and our stores,” the retailer said yesterday.

In an open letter on Monday morning, Ramsunder said that the retailer had suspended employees who were responsible for the advert.

“We have engaged the supplier, who has now also issued an apology. This incident has highlighted the need to audit all of our third-party (and our own) promotional material for any implicit or explicit bias as well as the need for diversity and inclusivity training for all of our head office employees. This will be urgently implemented.”

Meanwhile, Clicks said that its stores would be open this week, despite persistent calls by the EFF for the retailer to shut its doors until Saturday.

In the Durban CBD, EFF provincial leader Vusi Khoza led the shutdown of the Clicks store in Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street and affirmed the party’s commitment to shut down Clicks stores until Friday.

“What this company has done is an insult to us and we are here to fight for the dignity of the black child.

“So from today until Friday we will shut down every Clicks store until they show remorse. They tried to take us to court to have our protest halted which says they are not remorseful.

“We want Clicks to fire the people who were involved in the approval of the advert, whether it be the ad agency or someone in their marketing. We want to see someone held accountable,” said Khoza.

The protests left South Africans divided over the efficacy of the protests as a store in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape was vandalised and one in Witbank was petrol-bombed.

Faith Ramawa posted on Facebook: “I personally do not support violence, but what ultimatum do they have if their pains and reminders of past injustices are ignored? SA has normalised violence to be a requirement to get an audience. It’s a shame.”

On Facebook, Asanda Mlanduli posted: “Unemployed youth are rushing to vandalise and destroy. One day you lose out on an interview because your face is all over the media with illegal protests fuelled by the EFF leader sitting comfortably in his office.”

Sheena Kretzmer posted: “Clicks head office has a lot of work to do to recover and improve going forward so that this never happens again, but I don’t believe their stores and staff should be getting as damaged or rioted as they are. Give the brand a chance to rectify, learn and be better, surely?”

The Star