EFF’s insulting deal with Clicks, Unilever shows they can’t fight for racial justice
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By Andile Mngxitama
The agreement reached between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of Julius Malema and Unilever and Clicks respectively is as bad for black people as the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) talks.
It will be remembered that at Codesa, the ANC cut a deal which ushered in the “new” South Africa; which in essence legitimised apartheid hence 26 years later, black people are still de facto at the bottom of the social and economic order.
The whole series of events leading to the agreement have shown an impressive capability of the EFF to mobilise. Furthermore, the speed at which both Uniliver and Clicks came to the table shows how weak global white monopoly capital (WMC) actually is.
As soon as the high court removed the State from protecting Clicks, the soft underbelly of WMC was exposed. Also, it was revealed that, while EFF is the most organised of all political formations in South Africa, it doesn’t however, have the appetite and acumen for far-reaching transformation.
The EFF is, therefore, a militant reformist organisation which is incapable of pushing a radical agenda to its logical conclusion.
Here I present reasons why the EFF, Uniliver and Clicks agreement is a Codesa-like compromise deal which harms the fight against racism than advance it.
1. Uniliver and Clicks which are white-owned sent junior black staff to negotiate with the EFF. The acoustics of two black sides discussing the problem of racism immediately exposed the superficiality of the engagement.
Blacks can’t be racist, therefore black people are not the authors of racism nor its beneficiaries. Where were the white senior executives? Why did EFF agree to meet with black people sent to protect the culprits and benefactors of racism? Accepting to sit astride a group of people who themselves are victims of racism is tantamount to FW de Klerk sending homeland leaders to negotiate with the liberation movement at Codesa.
It opened the EFF to the charge that it was willing to compromise and protect the white owners of entities accused of racism.
2. The EFF had insisted on the promise of “black dignity or death”; that the names of the executives who oversaw the production of the racist Tresemmé advert must be revealed. This demand found support within the Clicks board when non-executive director Nonkululeko Gobodo also added her voice that the name of the responsible executive must be exposed to assist the process of transformation at Clicks.
However, the agreement has in essence protected the offending executive through a blatant lie which now implicates the EFF in a cover-up.
The EFF and Unilever say that the said executive cannot be named on the insistence of Unilever. Furthermore; EFF conceded this point to Unilever forgetting the oath they made for transparency. It also looks like a blatant lie was told and further criminal actions committed in the course of protecting the offending executive. Both the EFF and Unilever state in the agreement that the offending unnamed executive has since left the country. This raises the immediate question of how it’s possible to leave the country given that Covid-19 regulations explicitly prohibit international travel. This means either Unilever is lying with the assistance of the EFF or Unilever has helped one if its executives to break the law with the consent of EFF. This compromise shows that the EFF has become an accomplice to the crime instead of being an adversary of racism.
3. Unilever is a R1 trillion annual turnover company. That means in one year the company makes trade of the equivalence of 15% of the GDP. This is staggering by any measure. It must also be remembered that Unilever was a sanctions-busting enterprise to assist apartheid oppression of black people. Unilever still owes blacks reparations for assisting and abetting apartheid. It is an insult that the EFF accepted a mere 10 000 sanitary pads from Unilever.
The monetary value of these pads doesn’t even reach a mere R100 000 which is equivalent to a monthly salary of one Member of Parliament.
Why would a multinational conglomerate making a R1 trillion annual trade be slapped on the wrist like that? The 10 000 sanitary pads agreement has particular exposed the EFF as not capable of fighting for racial justice and also tragically shows that the EFF doesn’t quite understand how significant racism as a system of power in the oppression of black people.
4. The EFF agreed with Unilever to remove Tresemmé goods for a mere 10 days and then return them to the shelves. This concession is so weak that it suggests that it was for providing an excuse to return the brand to the shelves when in fact there was a domino effect of removing of Tresemmé from all major outlets without even being asked to. It can, therefore, be said that EFF rescued Tresemmé without accounting as we have seen with the protection of the implicated executive.
The opportunities presented by a wholesale permanent withdrawal of the Tresemmé brand to black business would have been tremendous. But also such a move would have sent a strong message to industry that racism does not pay. This is a lost opportunity.
5. It looks like either Clicks deceived EFF or it was a willing victim of deception to protect Clicks. The so-called commitment to provide 50 000 sanitary pads is nothing new. Since 2016 as part of its Public Corporate Responsibility, Clicks has been handing out thousands of sanitary pads to the poor. Now this old programme is sold to the public as part of reparations for the recent acts of racism.
Yet again, the fact that the EFF was willing to be part of this public relations stunt presented as a concession in the negotiations makes it either a willing enabler of racism or singularly incapable of holding white capital accountable for transgressions against black people.
6. The EFF has postponed to an undefined future engagement the discussion on the substantive questions relating to procurement, transformation and localisation. These substantive issues, which should have been at the top of the agenda are postponed just like Codesa postponed them.
To end racism ownership is imperative. BLF suggested on the morning of the meeting that a 51% minimum black ownership was the only sensible and serious demand that must be put on the table. Without such demand Unilever has been left off the hook, just like white capital was left off the hook in Codesa.
7. There was nothing new that Clicks did to show remorse for its actions. So the deal was merely free PR to existing corporate responsibility schemes. This begs the question, did Clicks trick Malema or was he a willing participant in this deception game? In essence, Clicks gave nothing in the negotiations.
8. EFF has agreed to help the police arrest its own members who were involved in the protest against racism. This introduces a foreign element in the history of our struggle where leaders throw their members under the bus and become informants against their own followers.
It doesn’t make sense why the EFF conceded to this demand. Racism is violent, therefore it has to be stopped by any means necessary. The EFF has now agreed to criminalise robust struggles against racism. Those with power need to know there shall be consequences for racist transgressions. This agreement to criminalise militant protest robs blacks of the only weapon they have against oppression. Accepting this unreasonable demand suggests askari-like behaviour by the EFF.
9. There is a contradiction between the promise Unilever made to remove the Tresemmé products from the shelves for 10 days only, with the Clicks localisation commitment. It is not clear if the Tresemmé products coming back to the shelves after the 10-day moratorium will be localised or not. This ambiguity seems to be a deliberate tactic to give Clicks an alibi to do nothing.
10. The agreement with Clicks, Unilever and EFF unfortunately shows the continuation of the Codesa sellout template which benefits the beneficiaries of racism concretely but pays lip service to the victims.
Black leaders under the pretext of representing the interests of the oppressed cut deals under the table and legitimise the same oppression. This round of negotiations failed to break the curse of sell-outism, consequently, blacks are celebrating yet another agreement which insults their dignity. Unilever and Clicks have been given a free pass by the EFF. This sends a bad message to the industry.