The South African health and beauty retailer has apologised to the country following a controversial advertisement posted on its website depicting black women’s hair texture as inferior to that of white women.
In an open letter to the nation, Vikesh Ramsunder, Clicks Group CEO, said: “I am very disappointed that we have allowed insensitive and offensive images to be posted on our site. I sincerely apologise for the hurt and anger these images have caused.”
Ramsunder said even though the images and content are provided to Clicks by supplier Tresemme, this doesn’t relieve us of guilt. As such, we take responsibility for the error of this review by apologizing publicly and promptly removing the offending material from our website.
“Over the past few days, I have thought deeply about what it means to be a proud corporate citizen of South Africa and consulted extensively with various stakeholders to find comprehensive answers to correct my mistakes,” said Ramsunder.
A negligent employee was suspended and the supplier apologized. This incident highlighted the need to screen all third-party promotional material [and our own] for clear bias and the need for diversity and training to include all employees at our head office.
“As a company, we can’t change what happens, but we learn from it. We are determined to make real and systematic changes in our business that reflect our pride that we are truly a South African company. We’ve done a lot when it comes to transformation. This issue makes clear that we still have much to do.”
The advert went viral over the weekend, causing outrage. It shows a picture of four women, two black and two white. The advertisement depicts the hair of black women dry and damaged, curly and dull, while the hair of white women is flat and normal.
The advert angered many South Africans, to which Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) leader Julius Malema responded by mobilising his party members to ensure retailers across the country were closed.
Shopping malls across the country were painted red on Monday when EFF members forced Cliks stores to stop trading.
Clicks has filed a lawsuit in court to obstruct the EFF process. This report specifically states that police must respond to calls from Clicks stores where EFF members intimidate or threaten employees or damage property and disrupt business.
Despite court order, Malema has vowed EFF will continue with the protest until Friday,
Andrew Whitfield, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Police, said the EFF’s call for violence and property destruction would impact the livelihoods of thousands of Clicks employees who would bear the brunt of the destruction.
“The DA will submit as evidence to police violent behaviour and property destruction by the EFF and pressure the National Police Commissioner to ensure that Julius Malema and his thugs don’t get special treatment,” Whitefield said.