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I sent the following e-mail to a group of people, of which Sam Ngubeni, the COO of Woolworths Human Resources, was included. It relates to the call by Dan Roodt for Afrikaners and whites to boycott Woolworths, owing to alleged racist employment practises.
In my opinion, Dan Roodt misses a subtle yet crucial point. It is not that Woolworths is a racist company. Woolworths is in the business of serving their consumers to the best of their ability, whether they are white or black.
In order to do this, as Sam points out in that statement: “As per the Employment Equity Act, Woolworths is expected, like all SA companies with more than 50 employees, to plan our workforce by race, gender and disability.”
In other words, WW serves their customers to the best of their ability, no matter what race, sex, or ability, but are forced to achieve this with a mix of employees determined by the employment equity act, as laid down by government, which is racist and sexist, and discriminates based on physical ability.
It is one of the constraints to WW carrying out its business operations in a profitable way in South Africa. If WW disregards this law, there’s no telling what the potential ramifications would be. It could ultimately risk closure of the business.
It is the Employment Equity Act that is racist and sexist. By very definition, it discriminates based on sex, race, and disability.
Woolworths has never spoken out against these racist and sexist laws. Furthermore, Woolworths legitimises these unjust laws by obeying them.
In the days of Apartheid, corporations were afraid to speak out against the nationalist government’s apartheid laws for fear of the government backlash, so they just obeyed unjust laws and carried on with business as usual.
Today, Woolworths and other corporations are doing exactly the same thing, by not speaking out against racist and sexist employment laws legislated by government. It is easier to toe the line than go against the grain of government.
Woolworths does not know how strongly its customer base feels about this issue, because there is no way of measuring this. A coordinated boycott, that costs Woolworths millions of Rands in multiples of ten or a hundred worth of sales (i.e. revenue), would send a clear signal of how their customers feel about WW obeying unjust government laws, in hard money terms.
It is the means through which mainly white consumers, who in the SA democratic political system are disenfranchised because they are in the minority, could force corporations like Woolworths to communicate to the government the true cost and opposition to their racist policies. If effective enough and if done on a large enough scale, government would eventually have no choice but to change these laws.
In my opinion, the combustible sentiment of a growing portion of white people regarding issues such as these highlights the growing discontent among whites to racist government policies. But the anger is misdirected, if directed at WW. It should be directed at racist policies of government.
That is the real underlying issue here, which Dan Roodt does not seem to identify.