The National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) has called for a National Day of Action against retail group Woolworths on the 30th August. The coalition has urged Palestinian sympathisers to visit their nearest Woolworths store and protest against the company’s refusal to remove Israeli products from its shelves.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) coordinator, Kwara Kekana, said the call was being made in the same spirit as the historic mass march that took place on the 9th August. The march was widely considered the biggest such event in the country post-Apartheid.
Kekana said they were looking to send a clear message to Woolworths, that they could not continue to profit from the oppression of the Palestinian people, without any form of recourse. She lambasted the companies “arrogant” response towards the campaign.
“We are advancing the campaign until Woolworths terminates its trade relations with Israel. The idea that Woolworths saying to us that it is not political, and that it does not want to involve itself in the issue, I don’t think South African’s really appreciate that tone,” she said.
She highlighted South Africa’s own troubled history, and the positive impact of sanctions and boycotts that were implemented by the international anti-Apartheid movement. She noted that boycotts against companies like Polaroid, and Barclays Bank, contributed greatly to the downfall of the Apartheid regime.
“We are simply calling for the same action to happen across the country, on the 30th August,” she said.
The boycott is part of a targeted approach against local companies with trade links to Israeli companies and was brought about through intense consumer based pressure. The initial goal of the campaign had simply been to boycott Israeli produce stocked by Woolworths, but consumers themselves felt motivated to broaden the campaign to the company in its entirety.
“The campaign is a targeted and strategic, and we are setting an example with Woolworths. We will definitely move onto other supermarkets as well. And I can tell you now, they are already shaking in their boots,” she said.
Since the the boycott was called by the NC4P, Woolworths has seen a significant drop in share prices. Although unable to attribute this to the boycott itself, Kekana said they were looking at more sustainable ways of proving that the campaign was working.
“We will shortly release information on how consumers can assist us, through indicating how many have closed off their accounts , and how many have cut up their rewards cards. Such kinds of indicators will assist us in trying to determine the strength of the Woolies campaign,” she said.
Kekana expressed hope that the community would come out in their numbers with creative, non-violent ways to protest at the respective Woolworths stores.
BDS have previously issued a statement that it would not stop stocking Israeli products, despite the overwhelming number of calls received from pro-Palestinian supporters. They insisted the company had no political affiliations, and would leave it to the consumer to make the choice on whether to buy the products in question or not.
“We respect our customers’ right to make individual purchasing choices, which is why we clearly label every product’s country of origin and fully comply with government guidelines on products from Israel,” read the company statement. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)