The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa has labeled claims of abuse towards staff members and customers of Woolworths as “absolutely ludicrous”, instead blaming the retail company for allegedly using a heavy-handed approach to protesters. On Monday, Woolworths South Africa issued a press release expressing concern over the safety of staff members and customers since the launch of the boycott campaign against the company in August.
The retailer accused BDS SA and its supporters of being abusive during the numerous protests that have taken place in an around Woolworths stores. Woolworths has beefed up security at their respective stores, and have threatened to take legal action against BDS should the alleged abuse continue.
In response, BDS SA and spokesperson, Muhammed Desai said the threats were a “sign of sheer desperation” on the part of Woolworths. He insisted there had been no such acts of violence by BDS members, further suggesting that Woolworths were involved in several incidents of intimidation towards BDS, in a bid to suppress the growing boycott.
“Woolworths are finding themselves in a predicament where, from the get go they have refused to engage or meet to resolve this issue, thinking that they are simply going to wish away the Boycott Woolworths campaign,” he said.
Desai condemned what he view as “arrogant” behavior by Woolworths throughout the duration of the campaign. He noted the issue could easily by resolved if the company agreed to meet with BDS, the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P), and other pro-Palestinian organizations to try and come to some sort of resolution.
“Unfortunately in many ways, Woolworths is going to come to the table kicking and screaming. This will be similar to how other supermarkets of the world were brought to the table after campaigns were launched against them for stocking products from Apartheid South Africa,” he said.
Despite the allegations, Desai insisted the BDS SA stance was very clear in that it was directed only at the corporation itself. BDS SA would thus condemn any and all forms of violence that took place at any of the nationwide protests. However, He stressed that such incidents have yet to take place.
Woolworth’s trade relationship with Israeli companies is rumored to be valued at around R12 million, mostly in the trading of fresh produce. Desai said the relationship was relatively small in a financial sense, with Woolworths more than capable of sourcing those products elsewhere.
“This is an issue Woolworths can resolve. It is not something difficult for them to take a decision on,” he said.
He called on Woolworths to proceed with their threats of legal action, confidently stating that BDS were convinced the company had no case against them.
Woolworths SA was invited to respond on air, but have turned down several requests for radio interviews. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)