National government has broken its silence on the ongoing furore surrounding health and beauty retailer Clicks, whose stores are being told to close for a second day by a rampantly protesting Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) contingent across the country.
Government has condemned the discriminatory advertisement at the centre of the uproar, but in equal measures condemned the violence perpetrators by members of the EFF as they vandalised stores on Monday 7 September.
South Africans must ‘resist urge to take the law into their own hands’
In a statement
“Engaging in lawless behaviour is not a responsible way to resolve conflict,” they said.
Government called on South Africans to “resist the temptation to take the law into their own hands”, and rather to follow the correct legal protocols should they wish to air their grievances.
“Members of the public who witness any form of intimidation or act of violence should contact the nearest police station,” they said.
Defeating racism ‘government’s priority’ – Mthembu
Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, said that what he saw on on Monday, constitutes an abhorrent disregard for efforts to sustain a peaceful democracy committed to human rights.
“We remain committed to the values of democracy. Any form of discrimination or violation of human rights for whatever reason cannot be tolerated as it undermines the progress made in building a united democratic country,” he said.
Not missing a beat, he added that fighting racism is government’s “priority”, and said that recent legislation has empowered government to act against such intolerance.
“The fight against discrimination remains the priority of government. It is for this reason that in March 2019, Cabinet approved the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, a tool that empowers government to act against such injustices.”
Mthembu said that a “small minority” was working to undermine efforts to “build a united South Africa that we can all be proud of”, and say that South Africans should embrace one another’s diversity.
“As we launch Heritage Month today, we are reminded of the many cultures, traditions and languages that make us who we are. In the spirit of social cohesion, let us all cherish and respect one another regardless of colour, background, gender, and religion.”
Clicks apology ‘doesn’t cut it’ – Ntshavheni
In a separate statement, Minister for Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that Clicks had “missed the point” when they issued a lukewarm apology after their advert for TRESemmé products labelling black people’s hair as dry, damaged and frizzy was widely criticised.
“Clicks misses the point that the offence is not only about the images that are insensitive but the fact that it represents the views of TRESemmé that are racists, and reflects the continued undermining of the beauty of African women and the violence they suffer when they are deemed not meeting certain superficial standards,” she said on Monday evening.
“Therefore to pull down the advert and issue a public apology cannot cut it. Clicks must remove the TRESemmé product from its shelves as an expression of their disassociation with suppliers who promote racist and insensitive marketing.”
She said that more needs to be done to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
“Diversity and inclusivity training for staff is just but a negligible drop in the ocean in the corrective action, and cannot be enough. The Department of Small Business Development remains available to assist Clicks to list more African hair products made by South African SMMEs for its shelves.”
EFF to continue Clicks shutdown on Tuesday
Meanwhile, EFF Secretary-General Marshall Dlamini called for supporters of the Red Berets to exercise “maximum discipline” as they once again attempt to force the closure of Clicks stores on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, all of us in the morning are reporting to the nearest Clicks stores to make sure that they al remain closed. Ours is a peaceful protest – let us all remain disciplined, but in instances of intimidation and provocation, fighters, defend yourselves.
Despite his colleague Floyd Shivambu having admitted on Monday that staff at Clicks may become “collateral damage” during the protest, Dlamini said that they were the primary concern of the organisation.
“Workers and customers of Clicks, thank you very much for your cooperation. Your safety is our priority.,” he said.
“Let us go and execute the mandate of the organisation by making sure that all Clicks stores remain closed until Friday.”