OPINION | Corporate SA remains racist and its silence will not be tolerated

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EFF Members at Clicks stores in the Durban CBD during the national shutdown of all Clicks outlets.
EFF Members at Clicks stores in the Durban CBD during the national shutdown of all Clicks outlets.
Darren Stewart/Gallo mages via Getty Images

The EFF will take no prisoners as it deals with racism at corporates in South Africa, writes Bernard Yusuf Joseph.

As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, it is hard to accept racist "mistakes".

It is even harder to try to understand why those others, who also suffered under apartheid, are not able to accept this profound pain when racism rears its ugly head and why they write it off as a mere glitch. 

As someone who hails from the coloured community, where hair was often the determinant factor of one's race, it is simply unacceptable that 26 years into a so-called free and non-racial South Africa, corporate South Africa gets away with institutionalised racism. 

It is not only through mistaken advertisement, but it is proved through their employment equity reports year after year.

Corporate South Africa, in the main, together with some in the media, simply do not believe in addressing past injustices.

A battle against institutionalised racism was won at Clicks.

The war against racism in corporate South Africa, however, is far from over.   

Demonising EFF protests 

Yet, as with the protests during apartheid South Africa which were useful and successful, so too we saw, in this instance, the success of the protests led by the EFF, albeit small, against racism in the private sector. The protests against Clicks worked. Clicks is taking action and must be commended!

However, some media houses did all in their power to demonise the protests led by the EFF. By focusing on the protests, instead of the racist ad, these media houses attempted to gaslight South Africans, shifting attention to the protests, instead of fighting the ad and its sponsors. 

Only when the EFF protests at Clicks stores took place, did a specific media house get all its presenters, black and white, to condemn the ad and the institutionalised racism the ad portrayed. Yet their condemnation was followed by a "but".

Some media houses, with the rest of corporate South Africa, therefore did all in their power to delegitimise the struggles of black bodies in South Africa. Yet the agreement between Clicks and the EFF prove these pundits wrong. Slowly but surely, the EFF is leading in the fight against racism in corporate South Africa. 

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How is it that some protests are encouraged and even promoted by the media, but when it comes to protests against corporate South Africa, these are described as violent and delegitimised?

How is it that some in the media and in civil society are fine with protests, even violent ones at times, against the state, but these same people, by all means, defend and protect corporate South Africa?

The EFF has never planned nor condoned violent protests. But some in the media, either by commission or omission, wish to always portray the EFF as a violent organisation. 

South Africans are aware that particular media houses have an agenda against the EFF and will do all in their power to portray the EFF as such and we are therefore not surprised that the focus is shifted to the EFF, instead of on the real perpetrators, in this instance, Clicks. 

Some weeks ago, a weekly national newspaper in South Africa ran a story on a directive given by a recruitment agency to its agents for the recruitment of an "SMG - Marketing Manager" and it included a "[n]ew spec (sic) from SMG for a Marketing Manager." The email continued: "Ideal candidate youngish white Male and Female (slightly prefer male)…."

BMW SMG immediately distanced itself from Schlemmer & Associates, the recruitment company, even though the email said the request came "from SMG".

READ | 'We are innocent' - Cape Town BMW branch responds to EFF protest over job advert for white person

The EFF in the Western Cape has been staging peaceful protests against BMW SMG in Cape Town to highlight the blatant racist employment practices of the dealership, in full view of BMW South Africa. The latter is yet to issue a response condemning the other group's employment practices.

The past few weeks in South Africa have shown us that racism is alive and well and sadly, still thriving in some pockets of corporate South Africa.

No prisoners 

The examples of Clicks and the SMG BMW group have been exposed through great determination from the EFF. The EFF is taking no prisoners and this determination must be commended. 

We cannot pussyfoot around this issue. Unless punitive measures are taken, racism will continue to simmer.

While Clicks suspended staff involved in the advert and an executive resigned, we are still waiting for BMW SA to do the same and act without fear or favour in punishing the SMG BMW group by taking franchises away from them.

The EFF will not wait for any approval to continue its assault on racist practices.

SMG BMW remains our target of exposure and there is little doubt that we will get the same outcomes we had with Clicks. If there is anything apartheid taught us, it is that we must fight for what we want and fight to be recognised as people!

For our children's sakes, we will not give up the fight! 

- Bernard Yusuf Joseph is the former chairperson of the EFF in the Western Cape and a Member of Parliament. He writes in his personal capacity.

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