Woolworths has expressed concern about the safety of its customers and employees following claims of abuse by Boycott, Divest and Sanctions in SA (BDS) activists, it said on Monday.
“Our employees of all faiths and cultures tell us that they are feeling increasingly threatened by the protests in and around some of our stores,” it said in a statement.
“What’s more, the families of our employees have reported being abused and sworn at by BDS activists.”
Security had been increased at stores and the retailer would consider taking legal action against the individuals involved should the abuse continue.
“As much as BDS have the right to protest, our employees also have the basic right to work and our customers have the right to shop without feeling intimidated and abused by protesters.”
Questioned over why BDS had targeted them for the boycott, the company said they were not certain. The chain store claimed to have rarely sourced food from abroad, whilst following the South African government’s rules on international trade when they did.
“More than 95% of our food is sourced locally. The government of South Africa continues to authorise trade with Israel,” according to a response from Woolworths.
Woolworths said they have recieved regular emails from BDS, responding to each an every correspondence. They also denied suggestions the company was owned by a family affiliated to a foreign government, or that it funded any such foreign government.
“We are a publicly traded, JSE-listed company, with shareholders from diverse cultural backgrounds. Woolworths does not fund foreign governments or militia. We are concerned about such accusations levelled against Woolworths that have absolutely no basis in fact,” read the Woolworths statement.
Woolworths has further claimed not to have been greatly affected by the BDS boycott, in terms of community support.
“Our customers have been very supportive. Sales continue to increase, year on year.”
BDS initiated a campaign to boycott Woolworths over its trade relations with Israel following the war in Gaza. SAPA/VOC