Exactly one year on from the launch of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Woolworths and the retailer continues to earn little respite from pro-Palestinians sympathisers over its stocking of Israeli-imported food products. On Saturday protesters headed the call of BDS SA for a National Day of Action, taking to Woolworths stores across the country to call for the company to severe its trade links with the Zionist-state.
In recent months the retailer has sought to increase its waning public profile through various initiatives, including a highly publicised collaboration with U.S. musician, Pharrell Williams. But this hasn’t had much influence, with a Wits University researcher recently uncovering that the boycott campaign has lost Woolworths at least R8 Million a month during the past year.
BDS coordinator, Mohammed Desai said in addition to the financial losses the campaign has brought about, the boycott has also had a massive impact on the public image of the company.
“We’ve been told from senior people from within the company that Pharrell Williams being brought out here to South Africa is in fact a P.R campaign to try and undermine the BoycottWoolworths campaign,” he suggested, referring to the two free concerts the artist is set to perform in the country during the latter part of September.
While Woolworths has had a complete ‘shutout’ in terms of addressing the boycott, Desai said many prominent media houses were also doing likewise by failing to bring the topic up in its coverage of Williams proposed performances.
“We know that our national broadcaster is being paid between R25-R30 Million for advertising of the Pharrell Williams concerts. We are talking about big money being mobilised to force this blackout within those media spaces where one would usually to see coverage of the campaign,” he claimed.
In regards to the weekend’s protests, reports have emerged of several Woolworths stores using ‘heavy-handed’ methods to detain protesters. Desai said this was a sign of the company entering panic mode over the protests ahead of the proposed concerts next month.
“They are of course worried about the big protest which is due to take place in Cape Town. The City of Cape Town are also trying to clamp down on this, suggesting only 150 people can gather outside the Grand West Casino (where the concert is due to take place,” he said.
Desai urged members of the community to “make history” by coming out in their numbers to send a clear message to Woolworths, as well as to Williams who is due to perform in Israel a week prior to his South African visit. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)