Members of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters are leading a massive protest against the health and beauty retailer Clicks over a racially offensive advertisement. This comes after the beauty company published an advertisement on its website which portrayed Caucasian hair as superior to African hair.
The controversial advert seemed to describe African hair as dry and damaged, but represented white hair as normal.
The advert has since been pulled down, and the beauty company said everyone involved has been duly suspended.
However, the opposition figure Julius Malema, who is leading the protests, wants Clicks to close all of its outlets for five days over the blunder.
On Monday, over 400 shops affiliated to the company were vandalised by protesters and made to close down.
The advert was widely criticised by South Africans, many describing the company as racist and insensitive. The Economic Freedom Fighters say they will not let the beauty company return to normal operations until it takes measures to rid itself of racism.
The party’s deputy president, Floyd Shibambu, said Clicks must publish the names of all the people who passed the advert for television. He is also demanding that the company show evidence that it has punished all those involved.
“Unless they do that Clicks will not be open in all parts of South Africa,” Shivambu told the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Clicks, Vikesh Ramsunder, has apologised for the offensive advert. “I understand the emotions that are coming through from society, from Black people, from our staff,” he told Radio CapeTalk.
“When I looked at those images it took me two seconds to realise how insensitive they were. I don’t know why we posted them.”
Government condemns vandalism
The South African government has also expressed shock regarding the advertisement carried by Clicks.
It described the contents of the advert as disturbing but also condemned the vandalising of stores belonging to the beauty company.
“Whilst we are equally disturbed by the crude, racist display by the advertisement in question, the acts of lawlessness, of vandalising and burning down Clicks stores that have been reported today are concerning, and go against the spirit of peace and respect for human rights that has shaped this country since the dawn of democracy.
“Engaging in lawless behaviour is not a responsible way to resolve conflict,” a statement from the Government Communication and Information System said.
Jackson Mthembu, a minister in the presidency, declared: “We remain committed to the values of democracy. Any form of discrimination or violation of human rights for whatever reason cannot be tolerated as it undermines the progress made in building a united democratic country.”
E A Alanore