Its been seven months since angry protesters attacked some H&M stores in South Africa after the company displayed a controversial ‘coolest monkey’ hoodie on its website. Fast forward a few months later and a similar event has recreated itself, but this time, it all started with a businessman identified as Adam. Mr Catzavelos reportedly made a questionable recording of himself while on vacation. In the video which was shot on a beach in South Africa, he uses a derogatory word aimed at the black population while giving a weather report in a derisive manner.
“Let me give you a weather forecast here: Blue skies‚ beautiful day‚ amazing sea and not one kaffir in sight. Fuckiing heaven on earth,” he said. In South Africa parlance, the word Kaffir (K-word) is a pejorative connotation which is used to take a dig at the black people in the country.
Catzavelos has since received a lot of backlash for his actions, costing not just him, but also every business and individual directly linked to him.
In yet another viral episode, it seems there is no end in sight for the fight against racism as it continues to eat deep into the global community. However, these incidents are clearly a reaffirmation of South Africas’s age-long aversion to racial discrimination. The country has zero tolerance for such malicious acts having steered away from the apartheid era and enacting new laws to control hate speech. Whenever racial discrimination arises, South Africans in their numbers remonstrate on and off social media. In March 2018, Vicky Momberg was jailed for 3 years after she was caught on video verbally abusing a black policeman. She was the first person to be jailed for such offence.
Currently leading the fight against racial discrimination is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a far-left political party in the country founded by Julius Malema. In recent times, several companies have been forced to close their stores/businesses as a result of South Africans’ response to racism.
In December 2017, two South African musicians accused British Airways of moving them from business class to economy class on a flight to make room for a white woman.
Members of the EFF responded with an authoritative tone stirring a wind of anxiety in the aviation industry. “British Airways can go fly in its colonial and ever racist Britain. “Whomsoever is white and not willing to treat black people with dignity and respect must simply leave our country,” said the party in a statement.
The group called for the persecution of the airline, demanding that every worker on board that flight be dismissed. British Airways issued a public apology in the middle of the outrage.
One of the other companies to have experienced the wrath of South Africans is Bell Pottinger, a British multinational public relations agency that is also operational in South Africa.
Last year, the company was axed from the public relations trade body for five years by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) in the UK. This came after claims that one of its campaigns had stirred racial tension in South Africa. The South African opposition, Democratic Alliance complained and also requested that the license of the PR agency be withheld. The company was forced into administration and reportedly sacked over 100 workers after it was slammed with the ban.
H & M
In January 2018, a controversial ‘racist hoodie’ was featured on Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company’s website. The hoodie with the inscription ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ which was up for sale stirred outrage in the country leading to protests by some activists.
Some of the stores belonging to the company in Pretoria and other parts of the country were destroyed and forcefully shut down by angry protesters. The protesters who were mostly members of the EFF stormed the stores across different locations. “that @hm nonsense of a clothing store is now facing consequences for its racism. All rational people should agree that the store should not be allowed to continue operating in South Africa. Well done to Fighters who physically confronted racism” Floyd Shivambu, EFF spokesperson tweeted in January.
In a swift reaction, the company issued an apology and took the hoodie off its website and catalogue. “We apologise for offending customers with an image of a printed hooded top that was published on selected global online channels. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in South Africa,” read a statement on H&M’s Twitter account.
Unlike the H&M narrative, Nike was more or less a victim of circumstance in the recent racism row in South Africa. It was forced to close all its stores in the country in the face of imminent attacks by members of the left-wing party currently protesting against the act of Mr Adam Catzavelos.
The sportswear company was drawn into the controversy when the news about the workplace of Catzavelos filtered through social media. It all started when a Twitter user asked citizens to boycott all Nike merchandise until they dismiss Adam Catzavelos’ wife, claiming they ought to purge the country of racists. Following this, Nike quickly closed some of its stores in Johannesburg. The company in a statement denied having any official tie with Mr Catzavelos.
St. George Fine Foods
After the racist video by Adam Catzavelos went viral, certain businesses he is linked to came out to deny him publicly, one of such is his family business which he co-owns with his brother. The company took action out of fear of other attacks by anti-racism protesters forced the company to take the action.
The company is currently inoperative, it has also shut down its website. A local paper also reported that the Johannesburg-based food manufacturer said it has cut ties with Mr Adam Catzavelos as top brass in the company fear protesters might ambush the company. “…We reject racism in any form. Adam Catzavelos has been dismissed with immediate effect from the family business‚ St George’s Fine Foods‚ and his minority shareholding will be unwound as soon as practically possible,” a statement by the company read.
“Given the high-profile nature of this development, the business has been temporarily closed for the protection of all its staff. We have no further comment at this stage.”