Racism remains a huge problem in South Africa. It may be overt racism or what former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela this week characterised as unconscious bias, but it lingers and it is ugly.
So the Clicks advert that portrayed black hair as dry and damaged while white hair was called fine and flat was nothing short of racist, and no apology can correct the fact that a group of senior managers conceived this advert and then agreed that it could be sent out into the public space. It’s unforgivable.
The advert fed on the worst stereotypes and caricatures of black people. So the anger and outrage in a week when we commemorate the death 43 years ago of Black Consciousness thinker Steve Biko was fully warranted.
And it would have been upsetting on any other day. The lessons from this debacle should not be about Clicks or TRESemmé, but all corporates who pledge transformation and have little understanding of what it really means.
But our anger with Clicks should not blind us to the thuggery that was unleashed on the nation this week.
EFF leader Julius Malema issued what should rank as one of the most incendiary remarks by a South African leader when he tweeted to his supporters to “attack” Clicks.
This unleashed ugly violence that included the petrol-bombing and trashing of Clicks stores, and the physical harassing of customers while they shopped.
If they want war give it to them including any land lord of any mall who refuses you entrance . No one must disrespect black people after 2013 without any consequences, if it means death so be it. We are ready for the ultimate sacrifice in defense of black people. #EFFMustRise— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) September 6, 2020
The EFF’s despicable conduct included its leadership endorsing the harassment of women journalists and personal attacks on Madonsela for merely sharing her perspective on the saga.
As a political party represented in Parliament, the EFF has a responsibility to conduct itself in a manner befitting the third biggest party in the country.
The @EFFSouthAfrica and its leaders will never let you forget what they truly are: a misogynistic, fascist, intolerant, violent, corrupt bunch of opportunists who thrive on hate. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is not an anomaly here. He is repeating what other EFF leaders say and do every day. https://t.co/RYjJpuJ0X8— Justice Malala (@justicemalala) September 9, 2020
In Parliament, it has the power to participate in lawmaking that would punish racist and sexist practices by private entities and individuals. But resorting to violence at the drop of a hat makes it truly unsuited to be a credible vehicle representing citizens in those hallowed halls.
Through its actions, we were left to wonder what kind of government the red berets would constitute if the party was entrusted with power by voters.
Like teenage boys, the EFF seems to believe that it can only make a point through raw violence and abuse. While the EFF might claim victory because Clicks was eventually forced to grovel for mercy, it lost the respect of law-abiding citizens.