Friday, 7 September 2012

Woolworths – Get Over It Already!

I have been somewhat bemused by the numerous calls to boycott Woolworths.  This call for a boycott comes amidst accusations that Woolworths apparently excludes whites from employment. 

I believe that the call to boycott Woolworths was started by a chap by the name of Justin Harrison, who is apparently an Internet marketing guru.  He both wrote about the racist practices of Woolworths on his Blog, Justin Harrison, and also tweeted: “We are calling for a boycott on all #Woolworths SA stores until they provide equal job oppertunities not based on race.[Sic]

Vreesloos Afrikaans
There have been many others who also felt the need to express their thoughts on the matter.  For example, Vreesloos Afrikaans, whose background picture on Twitter is of oxen pulling an ox wagon, tweeted that: “If a white person can’t work at Woolies, why must we spend our money there?”  I think the oxen and his profile picture clearly indicate that he has issues with modern South Africa.

Steve Hofmeyr
Then there was the ever-controversial Steve Hofmeyr who also felt that he needed to jump on the bandwagon.  He tweeted: “Gonna be hard, but goodbye Woolies.” 

Dirk Hermann, from the trade union, Solidarity, also weighed in saying that it intended starting a campaign against the retailer if it did not change job advertisements on its website stating that only black, coloured and Indian candidates would be considered.

Listen, the truth of the matter is that we all know that employment equity principles apply to all companies in South Africa with more than fifty employees.  This is the law and is defined in the Employment Equity Act.  It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Woolworths. 

Now, personally, as a white person, I don’t see the issue with a company stating that a position is not for whites.  I really would prefer to know in advance whether I will or will not be considered for the advertised position.  It saves me the aggravation of applying for the position and the frustration of getting my hopes up over something that will never be. 

The honesty of the Woolworths advert must be applauded, not condemned.  It helps those who will not be considered to focus on those advertised positions where we will have a reasonable opportunity of getting the job.

The Woolworths matter has been blown out of proportion and is fuelled by nothing more than a bunch of prima donna’s looking for media exposure.  They present a distorted picture of a company that does not employ white people, which is, we all know very well, just blatantly untrue.  Sam Wilson, a digital editor at Woolworths, puts it in a nutshell with this comment on Twitter: “Dude, I’m new and I am white.  Also I am currently interviewing white people.  This just ISN’T true”.

Come on everyone,  get over it already!  There must surely be more important issues for us to focus on!


  1. The principle that a law exists in a country does not make it moral.
    Previously the Nat's job reservation laws made it law that one did not appoint people of a specific race. It was the law - but was it moral? According to you, we should get over it already and accept it.
    Another example is laws making abortion legal. This is the case in many countries, eventually being promulgated in South Africa. The Catholic bishops have taken a brave stance against those laws there. That is something we have not seen in South Africa - the Church pussy-footed around that priest who became an ANC MP and abstained from voting for making abortion legal. What did St Peter do when asked to betray the Word - he was willing to be matyred.
    Come on get over it already? I am sure that was said to many martyrs who refused to obey laws that were immoral.
    The Woolworths case is also a case where it exceeds the requirements of the EE Act.
    I would recommend that you read the Act to see how unreasonable it is and the threat it poses to SA

  2. Dawid, I am not sure that it can be considered immoral to have laws to ensure that the employees in a company reflect the demographics of our country. In fact I think it would be immoral not to have laws that require a company to align with the demographics of the country.

    1. @James, the demographics of the country is not the yardstick of morality, but the denial of opportunities. WW's approach is embedding a generation of blacks-only employees and will fail to reflect the "demographics' of the country.
      I have seen too many attempts at demographics at the expense of the organisation and its stakeholders.

  3. I think that it is easy to forget the injustices of the past and to want to move on, expecting to forgive and forget. When I matriculated in 1984 I had black friends who had matriculated as well. I was able to find work earning a fair income. They could not. Some of them had no choice but to resort to working in gardens to earn money or as cheap labour in factories. Do we think we have already corrected the years of imbalances that those friends of mine suffered working as gardeners and factory workers? I doubt if many of them ever managed to catch up and why not? Cause they were black and I was white! No other reason! We haven't a clue about immoral behaviour until we truly consider how much harm was done in the past.

  4. I do not see how this has any bearing on the matter.
    What is happening now is not only unjust, but driving skilled labour out of their country.
    All of my children have gone into exile. Theirs are skills unavailable to the SA economy.
    Consider how many competent people have been refused employment to cater for incompetent blacks with "potential" - that is how the EE Act is promulgated. How many areas in SA no longer function due to this - the loss of lives due to mistakes eg Marikana.
    This is harm in the present and will show itself even more in the future.

  5. This article by Khaya Dlanga on this Woolworths issue is hilarious -

  6. fascinating!...but it was 1994 when I entered the job market,every single job I was qualified for was affirmative action which excluded me and as for WW,it is not true that no white people want to work at store level,it is only true that they are not given the opportunity,so quite simply if we don't see one out of every ten(in accordance with race population ratio) at store level why should we bother to continue to support the store,I have no problem with 90% of store level workers being black or dark skinned but 100% from a store that has had over 40 years support from mainly white customers,and don't insult me with talk of top management being too white,takes 20 or should take 20/30 years to reach top management,point is you are not giving white people a chance to work at level entry and are only employing them at any level if you are totally unable to find a suitable qualified dark person,the problem is this means that eventually no white people will be employed,white people who want to work at store level due to not having the means for extensive further study should be given fair opportunity,at every level there should be fair opportunity.

    1. Amanda you describe the problem and its consequences well!
      The implementation of EE laws are often evil.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I agree that these sorts of reactions are really over the top and insensitive to our history. However, what I find disturbing is that nobody seems to have taken exception to Woolworths seeking to impose flexi-time on all their employees. Deacon Stephen has more on it here.