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'Racism is violence and this was deeper than hair': activist Zulaikha Patel weighs in on Clicks shutdown

08 September 2020 - 15:52 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Activist Zulaikha Patel said the EFF's active approach was one that tried to target and dismantle white supremacy.
Activist Zulaikha Patel said the EFF's active approach was one that tried to target and dismantle white supremacy.
Image: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius

Activist Zulaikha Patel has given the EFF's approach to the Clicks' hair row the thumbs-up, saying it was “immediate action”.

The health and beauty retailer came under fire on Monday, after an advert on its website that appeared to demean African hair.

The advert, which has since been removed, showed the hair of a black woman, describing it as being “dry, damaged, frizzy and dull”, while that of a white woman was described as “fine, flat and normal”.

Many expressed their outrage on social media, calling the advert offensive and racist. The retailer later issued an apology.

Clicks said the advert was not its own and that it was commissioned by the hair company TRESemmé, which also issued an apology on its website, saying the advert was meant to celebrate all hair types.

The advert caused huge outrage with the EFF taking action against Clicks by shutting down several of its branches across the country.

Clicks at Saveways Centre in Emalahleni in Witbank was damaged in a suspected petrol-bombing. A police source told TimesLIVE that there was minimal damage, with just a trolley catching fire.

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Members of the EFF, led by deputy president Floyd Shivambu, protested outside the Clicks retail store in Sandton City as part of a nationwide protest on September 7 2020. This comes after the retail group released a TRESemmé advert on its website that has been condemned by the EFF as racist. Meanwhile, police are investigating several incidents across the country where stores were vandalised.

Weighing in on the mobilised shutdown, Patel shared a video of the EFF shutdown on her Instagram Stories, saying “never let racists be comfortable in your presence”.  She called Clicks' apology “white arrogance”. 

Speaking on eNCA, Patel said the EFF's approach was a response to the “violence” perpetuated by Clicks.

She said the advert was not only racist but also violent, and that Clicks needed to be held accountable.

“The action the EFF has taken is immediate action, and they're responding to the violence that Clicks has perpetuated because racism is violence and this was deeper than a hair issue, this was blatant racism,” she said.

“This goes back to the fact that we have to decolonise the corporate space in this country. I am not aligned with the EFF but their approach was to confront white supremacy head-on.”

Patel launched her activism when she was just 13 years old by confronting Pretoria High School for Girls’ anti-black hair policy in 2016.

She made international news when her actions inspired other protests in SA.

Patel said the EFF's active approach was one that tried to target and dismantle white supremacy in SA.

TimesLIVE reported that the SA Human Rights Commission is set to intervene in the hair controversy.

The commission said it launched its “own-initiative investigation” into this matter.

“The commission has further written a letter to and called for a meeting with Clicks, for the retail store to explain itself concerning the content of the advert,” the SAHRC said.

“The commission remains committed to understanding measures taken by Clicks to guard against such adverts in the future and other accountability and sensitivity measures the company intends to take going forward.”