Carping Point: Dis-Chem debacle - White privilege is alive and kicking

Dis-Chem pharmacy store. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA).

Dis-Chem pharmacy store. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Oct 22, 2022


Johannesburg - Political protest finally closed the circle in South Africa this week. We’ve had the mass toyi-toyi, quite majestic when it once filled the entire length of a city street, the masses in full voice and in unison, all there voluntarily.

We’ve had the mayhem of Cosas marches; excuses for thuggery which segued naturally into union protests, when the youth became adults. We’ve had rent-a-mobs out for free T-shirts, aggro and affirmative shopping.

We have even had the Teletubbies taking out their rage on mannequins and shampoo bottles.

But there was still one last performative protest that none of us knew we needed. This week, our prayers were answered: a public utterance – without calling the manager, only tweeting about it.

@Pullypioli took to Twitter to announce that he had redeemed his R19.15 worth of Dis-Chem points and then asked the teller for their scissors. Then he cut up his loyalty card in front of their faces.

Was this the beating of the butterfly’s wings?

We don’t know, but the Karens and their other halves have been seething ever since a letter by Dis-Chem founder and MD Ivan Saltzman, banning the hiring of new white staff and promotion of existing white staff, was leaked at the weekend. It’s all grist for the Pandas (previously advantaged now disadvantaged) and populists like Herman Mashaba, who is fairly ecumenical when it comes to the range of lobby groups he has on speed dial.

The social media platforms and suburban WhatsApp groups are full of fevered talk of consumer boycotts. The white rand, if it can be lifted from its torpor, is being urged to vote with its feet to Clicks or even the toiletry aisles at Pick n Pay, Checkers or Spar. Maybe Food Lover’s will step into the breach? They can start their own line of pile cream, adult nappies and pharmaceuticals, because they’ve already got the chocolate, the muesli and the other rabbit food.

In all of this, no one’s speaking about the elephant in the room. Saltzman should get a bouquet not a brickbat. White privilege is real. You wouldn’t think so though to listen to the gnashing of teeth and rending of hair, that is when the caterwauling isn’t focused on Eskom, potholes and now intermittent water supplies.

By most metrics, the white minority – currently less than 7.7% of the total South African population – doesn’t have it too bad: unemployment might be running at an expanded rate of 46.2% in the country, but it was only this year that white unemployment hit 10%. One in 10 whites can’t get a job, which means nine out of 10 can. Five out of 10 people in the rest of the country can’t.

At the top end of the market, 78% of the companies listed on the JSE have white male CEOs. It’s even worse for women; more of them – of any colour – are unemployed than men. There are pitifully few women CEOs or executives.

Yes, life is kak at the moment, but not even that is equal. Cutting up R19.15 proves that. Someone could have bought something to eat with it.

The Saturday Star