Sunday, May 22, 2022

Pressure mounts on Woolworths as pro-Palestinian movement intensifies boycott

One of the country’s leading high-end retailers, Woolworths has been dragged into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by a local organisation known only as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), which had urged consumers not to buy goods made in Israel.

BDS which has representation in both South Africa and Botswana has been identified as a pro-Palestinian movement that mobilizes consumers to boycott stores that import products from Israel, in the wake of its offensive against Gaza, which has seen more than a thousand people ÔÇô many of them children ÔÇô killed, and thousands of others displaced. Apart from Woolworths, BDS has targeted two other South African retailers; Pick n’ Pay and Shoprite. However indications are that the three retailers do not want to be dragged into the Middle East situation and do not believe they are doing anything illegal.

On Friday Woolworths sent a statement to Sunday Standard in response to a campaign by BDS urging consumers not to buy certain items from the retailer.

“The vast majority of our food is sourced locally, more than 95 percent. We source a very small amount of food abroad. Less than 0.1 percent of our food is sourced from the Middle East and Israel,” read a statement from Woolworths.

Sunday Standard has established that Woolworths sources, among other products, pretzels, couscous, matzo, figs, litchis and mangoes from Israel. A quick survey of Woolworth’s local stores, precisely in and around Gaborone by the Sunday Standard team throughout this week shows that the proposed boycott call seems to have little effect so far as many Woolworths stores continued with brisk trade. By Friday, local consumers continued thronged the Woolworths stores as they rushed to the end-of-winter sale that the stores are currently running. Woolworths Group, regarded as a top retailer in southern Africa was given the go-ahead to purchase back all of its franchised stores across the country by the Competition Authority (CA) earlier this year. The move to get back 22 stores spread across the country marked the end of franchise business in Botswana as well as other African countries such as Namibia where the group has similar operations.

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