In an open letter, CEO of the Clicks Group, Vikesh Ramsunder, has issued an apology to the South African public in response to the controversial advertisements that have been brandished as racist.
Last week, Clicks were forced to take down advertisements promoting products for dry and damaged hair due to public outcry over the fact that the adverts only had pictures of natural African hair.
“But the person who did the ad was black”
That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s racist to insinuate that beautiful natural African hair is “frizzy and damaged” and blonde white people hair is “beautiful and healthy “
🌝✌🏼clicks you suck
— Nikita⁷ #BLACKLIVESMATTER She/her (@sgtcurrypants) September 5, 2020
And while Clicks offered a public apology, South Africans have not forgiven the retailers for the advert. EFF leader, Julius Malema wrote a letter to Clicks demanding that they dismiss the staff that were responsible for the adverts and has even threatened storming Clicks outlets around the country as retribution for the grievances.
We would like to issue an unequivocal apology. We have removed the images which go against everything we believe in. We do not condone racism and we are strong advocates of natural hair. We are deeply sorry and will put in place stricter measures on our website.
— Clicks (@Clicks_SA) September 4, 2020
@Clicks_SA do the right thing and suspend all those who were involved in that racist project and terminate the contract of the company that agreed to commission it, if you know what is good for you. Won’t repeat myself…
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) September 5, 2020
If they want war give it to them including any land lord of any mall who refuses you entrance . No one must disrespect black people after 2013 without any consequences, if it means death so be it. We are ready for the ultimate sacrifice in defense of black people. #EFFMustRise
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) September 6, 2020
This morning, Independent Online published Ramsunder’s open letter, where he apologised for Clicks’s advertising team’s mishap, saying that the images were provided by suppliers and that the relevant staff have been suspended for their failure to vet the adverts.
“Whilst the images and content were provided to us by our supplier, TRESemmé, this does not absolve us from blame. This is why we took accountability for this error of judgement by issuing a public apology and swiftly removing the offensive material from our website,” he said.
“Already, the negligent employees have been suspended, and we have engaged the supplier, who has now also issued an apology.”
Ramsunder went on to say that Clicks will be implementing diversity training programs to address the systemic failure that the incident has highlighted.
“This incident has highlighted the need to audit all of our 3rd party (and our own) promotional material for any implicit or explicit bias as well as the need for diversity and inclusivity training for all of our head office employees. This will be urgently implemented,” he said. “Over the past weekend, we have convened an extraordinary Board meeting to agree our next steps. This includes prioritising our diversity and inclusion training programme. We will be re-looking at its content, extend it wider and implement with more urgency and focus.”
He also said that the company is an “advocate for natural hair” and that the incident provides Clicks with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
“As a long-term advocate for natural hair, Clicks has invested heavily in the natural hair market over the past three years. We work with an extensive list of suppliers – more than 20 – to ensure that we stock more than 40 natural hair care ranges in our stores. Since 2005, we have grown the number of natural hair products on shelf by over 4000%.
“As a company, we cannot change what happened, but we are learning from this. We are committed to effecting real, systemic change across our business that reflects our pride in being a truly South African company. We have done a lot in terms of transformation. This issue has clearly highlighted that we have a lot more to do.”
Following this, he added that Clicks will take all of the necessary actions to protect their customers and employees, no doubt in reference to Malema’s threats.
“We will take the necessary precautionary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our customers and our employees. This includes dealing with the threat of the disruption of our business activities and intimidation of our customers and employees,” Ramsunder concluded.
For more news updates from South Africa and around the world, via the Essential Millennial’s News & Politics section.