Vangate Mall in Athlone was the scene of an pro-Palestinian protest on Saturday. An anonymous eyewitness alerted VOC News to a protest at Woolworths in the shopping centre. The chain store has been the target of a consumer boycott, in support of the Palestinian cause.
Hishaam Moosa* (name changed) said he was not aware if the protesters were members of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), although leaflets handed out by them were that of BDS. He described the protest as very calm as the few demonstrators were handing leaflets to the patrons that entered the mall and management of Woolworths.
“Things were a little hasty as Muslim staff were concerned due to the fact that they are working there and are now in the middle of the protest,” said Moosa.
An employee at a retail store in the centre said the picket was an inconvenience, as the mall was congested on Saturdays.
“People are in a hurry to pay their accounts and do their shopping. Its a bit of a nuisense in my opinion,” said Kayla Davids.
But a random shopper, wearing a Palestinian scarf around her neck, felt the impact of the boycott was far more important.
“I am boycotting Woolies. I come regularly to Vangate, but no longer shop there. I believe we have to get involved, and its a small price to pay for the Palestinians,” said Shameema Khan.
Another shopper said while he supported the Palestinian struggle, he firmly believed the boycott was a matter of choice.
“These activists shouldn’t impose their views on Muslim shoppers buying at Woolies. Its your consumer right where you want to shop. Let’s not judge others who don’t want to boycott Woolies,” stated Nazmie Zaindeen.
Moosa* reported that the group consisted of both Muslims and non-Muslim picketers and were peaceful.
A police spokesperson confirmed that police were on the scene monitoring the situation, but added that the picketers were calm. VOC (Imogen Vollenhoven)