Human Rights Commission holds follow-up meeting with H&M over ad

06 April 2018 - 15:21 By Nico Gous
EFF protesters outside the H&M store at Gateway Mall in Umhlanga. File image.
EFF protesters outside the H&M store at Gateway Mall in Umhlanga. File image.
Image: Screengrab

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will hold a follow-up meeting with clothing retailer H&M to discuss its plans to address its advert of a black child in a hoodie with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle”.

The advert sparked protests in January this year during which Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members trashed H&M stores.

The SAHRC said in a statement at the time that in a South African context “words such as ‘baboon’ and ‘monkey’ were not neutral terms” and were used to demean black people’s humanity and position certain races as superior to others. H&M said it was aware its apology was insufficient to address the hurt the advert had caused.

“We made a terrible mistake and we would like South Africans to understand that it will never happen again‚” H&M representative Rob Hekkers said.

H&M South Africa manager Pär Darj presented the clothing retailer’s plans to the SAHRC on March 28 and discussed concerns the SAHRC raised during their meeting on January 19.

The SAHRC welcomed H&M appointing managers to oversee diversity and inclusiveness‚ train staff on transformation and racism‚ H&M agreeing to submit its internal policies on gender and equality‚ proving progress reports‚ and meeting quarterly with the SAHRC to give feedback on these policies.

The SAHRC said its discussions with H&M formed part of its “broader efforts to address the tenuous relationship between business and human rights”.

“The Commission will continue to monitor the above commitments.”