For the past month since the beginning of the Israeli-Gaza conflict many individual South Africans, anti-Israeli lobby groups and public figures have called for the boycott of products sourced from, and manufactured on Palestinian occupied territories and within Israel.
Last week the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in South Africa called on conscientious shoppers to boycott Woolworths for stocking Israeli products. But in a daring move, local supermarket chain Elite Cash & Carry has chosen to remove all Coca-Cola products from their shelves; based on the fact that globally Coca-Cola has dealings with Israel in a trade capacity. Other local businesses have reportedly followed suit and have begun purging themselves of Israeli linked products.
Elite Cash & Carry spokesperson Liakat Sunge says Coca-Cola products make up a significant amount of revenue for the chain but the company believes a sacrifice is necessary to take a stand in what it sees as the unfair treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israel.
“It’s no easy decision for any business to remove an item that constitutes a major portion of your sales per month; [Coca-Cola products] make up about 15% of total sales per month, which is quite a large amount. After careful consideration, if we compare the devastation of, and the sacrifices the people are making in, Palestine; it is but a small sacrifice to make, and a small price to pay to support those people.”
Sunge says although it may not seem like a sustainable plan financially, Elite hopes that likeminded shoppers and customers of other chains will realize what they stand for and support them. He says he foresees the dip in revenue only lasting in the short term.
“Revenue is going to dip in the short term, but we know people will support the cause. That will replenish some of what we lose, even if it’s not the full amount, that will help us sustain it in the long term,” Sunge said.
Meanwhile other businesses have followed suit, but Sunge says he believes it is not the place of one business to encourage another to boycott certain products. He did however say that businesses who wish to, should evaluate all the factors before making the decision to boycott products whose absence may hurt their revenue.
One such business that has followed suit is Hartley’s Foods. Owner Shuaib Hartley says he weighed up his options before deciding to abstain from selling Coca-Cola products at his businesses but forged on due to the company’s silence on the conflict.
“It took me a while to make the decision but I saw that Coca-Cola has a plant on Palestinian land. I thought Coca-Cola is quite aware that people want to boycott them so why have they not yet come out and made a statement against what is happening in Gaza. If they were not complicit in [the occupation] surely they would have come out and said something,” Hartley explained.
Hartley says he plans on boycotting Coca-Cola until it releases some form of statement on their stance on the conflict in the Middle East. He also says he has now begun boycotting Nestlé products as well.
VOC News also received reports that Bin Rashid’s pizza eateries no longer stock Coke, but could not confirm this. Calls to the company went unanswered on Wednesday.
In the confusion with different entities calling out for boycotts, some have called for the boycott of locally made Jive cold drinks produced by Quality Beverages. Some detractors have made accusations of a link to Israel through the company under which it is listed on the securities exchange. But marketing manager Sean Burton says Jive and its parent company has no connection to Israel whatsoever.
“Quality Beverages is listed on the main board of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange through a publicly listed entity called Bowler-Metcalfe Limited. Shares in Quality Beverages were sold to BML, and they have no connection whatsoever to Israel and we have no connection to Israel, and we are still run by Sharief Parker.”
Burton warned that although Jive and Quality Beverages have no connection to Israel they would not encourage any other business to boycott other companies as they would not like to seem to be against competition in the market place. He says that if any consumers have queries, he and Quality Beverages are open to be questioned by the public. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)