Clicks, Unilever and EFF plait a truce after hairy week

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Clicks, Unilever and EFF plait a truce after hairy week

The parties have agreed on a number of issues, but the names of those behind the advert remain undisclosed

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Members of the EFF and Unilever officials after reaching an agreement that TRESemmé products can remain on South African shelves.
ALL SMILES Members of the EFF and Unilever officials after reaching an agreement that TRESemmé products can remain on South African shelves.
Image: Twitter/@EFFSouthAfrica

Unilever, which supplies TRESemmé products in SA, and the EFF on Thursday reached mutual ground on the future of the hair-care brand, while retailer Clicks sealed a peace deal by agreeing to offer five pharmaceutical bursaries to African women.

While large retailers such as Shoprite Checkers, Pick n Pay and Clicks agreed to pull TRESemmé products from their shelves after a racist advertisement by the brand, Unilever and the EFF have agreed the products can be put back on shelves in 10 days.

In a joint statement after a meeting between the EFF and Unilever, they said they had reached an agreement on the following:

  1. Unilever expresses its remorse to all South Africans, and black women in particular, for the racist TRESemmé SA image.
  2. Unilever will withdraw all TRESemmé SA products from all retail stores for a period of 10 days as a demonstration of its remorse for the offensive and racist image.
  3. In addition, Unilever will donate a minimum of 10,000 sanitary towels and sanitisers to informal settlements identified by the EFF.

Among the list of demands from the EFF to Unilever was that it supply the names of  employees who were behind the offensive advert, which sparked countrywide protests outside Clicks stores, some of which turned violent.

Unilever told the EFF it could not give in to this demand.

“We could not find each other on the publishing of the names of the people responsible for the racist image,” the joint statement from the two parties said. “Moreover, the director involved in the campaign has since left the company and the country,” the statement said.

The company would take action against the remaining employees.  

We could not find each other on the publishing of the names of the people responsible for the racist image.
Unilever, EFF statement

The TRESemmé advert was published by Clicks on its website last week.

It showed four images: two of black women’s hair, described as being “frizzy and dull” and “dry and damaged”, against two images of a white woman’s hair, described as “fine and flat” and then as “normal”.

The ad caused outrage, with the EFF taking action against the retailer. The company said the ad was not its own, apologised for publishing the images and said it was an oversight on its part. It suspended the staff who uploaded the ad.

The EFF, however, did not retreat and embarked on protest action against Clicks, calling for it to cut all ties with Unilever. The party said the advert had racist undertones and called for those who approved it to be fired. It disrupted operations at several Clicks stores around the country, a number of which were damaged.

Clicks had to obtain a court interdict to bar EFF protesters from intimidating its staff and customers, and damaging its property. It suspended operations at all its outlets on Wednesday.

The EFF also held talks with Clicks. 

The party released a joint statement with the retailer after a meeting on Thursday, saying: “Clicks expresses its remorse to all South Africans, black women in particular, for the racist TRESemmé advert it published on its websites.” 

The EFF said it had made it clear during the “constructive and robust” discussion that an apology was not enough, saying “the days of apologies and sorry are over — and that there must be consequences for racism”.

The red berets said the parties had agreed that Clicks would donate a minimum of 50,000 sanitary towels, 50,000 sanitisers and masks to rural and informal settlements identified by the EFF.

Also, Clicks would award scholarships to five students to pursue pharmaceutical studies in the next academic year. All five students must be black, rural, African females and orphaned by HIV/Aids.

In turn, the EFF would work with law-enforcement agencies to ensure that provocateurs involved in the vandalism of Clicks stores were brought to book.

“In light of the above, the EFF and Clicks have put the matter in question to rest,” said the party.

“The EFF calls off protest action at all Clicks stores with immediate effect. Clicks can now resume normal operations.”  — additional reporting by Nomahlubi Jordaan