EFF tells Clicks to 'go to hell' after it explains hair ad was by TRESemmé

07 September 2020 - 09:34
By Naledi Shange
EFF leader Julius Malema said his party's followers should shut down Clicks stores countrywide on Monday if the company does not do so itself.
Image: File EFF leader Julius Malema said his party's followers should shut down Clicks stores countrywide on Monday if the company does not do so itself.

The EFF issued a strongly-worded two sentence statement in reply to a four-page letter from lawyers for the retail outlet Clicks, in which they called for the party to desist from its plans to shut down the company's stores.

“Your racist lawyers of Pravin Jamnandas Gordhan and your racist client, Clicks, can go to the nearest hell. Black dignity or death, we shall overcome,” read Sunday's response from the EFF.

Werkmans Attorneys, which represent Clicks in the matter, has previously represented public enterprises minister Gordhan in his legal battles.

The lawyers had penned a letter to the EFF in which they explained how Clicks found itself embroiled in a hair scandal.

Last week, the company had run an advert on its website with an image of African hair, which was labelled as dry and damaged, while an example of white hair was described as fine and flat.

Clicks has since taken down the advert and apologised, saying there was an oversight in publishing it. 

The retail giant said it had done a lot to promote products which cater for black hair.

“Our client has invested substantially in the promotion of natural hair products, certain of which are owned by black businesses, which has resulted in the increase in the number of natural hair products in its stores by 4,000% since 2005,” it said in its papers to the EFF.

The company said the ad was not its own. It said the advert was commissioned by the hair company TRESemmé.

“TRESemmé, a brand with which our client has partnered and is a distributor of its products, published an advertisement on our client’s website which depicted the hair of a black woman as being ‘dry, damaged, frizzy and dull’ against that of a white woman, which is described as ‘colour-treated, fine, flat and normal hair'.

“After realising the advertisement has a potentially discriminatory connotation, on September 4 2020, Unilever SA and/or TRESemmé took down the advertisement from its website and on the same day published an apology on its website.”

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The apology on the Unilever website read: “We are very sorry that images used in a TRESemmé SA marketing campaign on the Clicks website promote racist stereotypes about hair. The campaign set out to celebrate the beauty of all hair types and the range of solutions that TRESemmé offers, but we got it wrong. The images are not in line with the values of our brand, or of Clicks. TRESemmé SA apologises for the offence these images have caused. We also apologise to the Clicks group.”

EFF leader Julius Malema called on his party's followers to “attack” more than 880 Clicks stores.

Among the EFF's demands of Clicks was for it to publish the names of the senior management who signed off the advert, and that the independent contractors who were behind the advert be fired.

It had given the company 24 hours to act.

Clicks, however, replied that it did not have the power to do this as it was bound by data privacy laws.

“Moreover there is no legal basis on which your organisation can request the names of those employees,” it said.

It had requested a conference call with the EFF to discuss the matter, and said it was investigating the incident.