Consumer goods company Unilever South Africa has agreed to withdraw its TRESemmé products from retail stores for a period of 10 days “as an expression of remorse.”
This was one of the decisions from a meeting between Unilever representatives and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders led by Julius Malema on Thursday.
Sanitary towels donation
“Unilever expresses its remorse to all South Africans, black women in particular, for the racist TRESemmé SA image. In addition, Unilever will donate a minimum of 10,000 sanitary towels (pads) and sanitisers to informal settlements identified by the EFF,” a joint statement issued after the meeting stated.
Unilever, TRESemmé South Africa and healthcare group Clicks have been under fire since last week when a controversial hair advert was posted on Clicks’ website.
The TRESemmé Clicks advert described African hair as “frizzy, dull, dry and damaged.” In contrast, it described white hair as “normal, fine and flat.”
The three companies apologised almost immediately, but the EFF gave Clicks a 24-hour ultimatum last weekend to dismiss employees involved in uploading the advert. It also demanded that the company must publicise a list of employees, directors and service providers who commissioned the advert.
Clicks indicated that it was taking disciplinary action against the employees and declined to publish their names. In response, the EFF embarked on a controversial “shutdown” of Clicks stores around the country.
Employee names won’t be published
The EFF similarly failed to get the names of employees involved in the debacle from its meeting with Unilever. Their statement said, “We could not find each other on the publishing of the names of people responsible for the racist image.
“Moreover, the director involved in the campaign has since left the company and the country. Unilever has made a commitment that following its internal investigations, the necessary disciplinary action will be taken against those remaining in the company in line with its policies. Upon the conclusion of the internal process, Unilever will take the EFF and the country into confidence.”
The EFF and Unilever also agreed to “put the matter in question to rest” and “to hold further discussions on transformation within Unilever relating to procurement, empowerment, employment equity and localisation.”
Some retail companies, including Checkers, Dis-Chem and Makro, have already announced that they will withdraw TRESemmé products. It is unclear at this stage if they would sell the products again after the 10-day period agreed by EFF and Unilever.
EFF was also scheduled to hold another meeting with Clicks, which closed its stores on Thursday to allow its employees to undergo counselling following the shutdowns. This is despite winning an interim court order against the EFF earlier this week.