PRESS STATEMENT: Woolworths embarrassed at its own AGM over Israeli trade

Taking a leaf out of the 1980s international anti-apartheid movement's boycott of South Africa, several human rights activists belonging to the Palestinian solidarity organization BDS South Africa and the NC4P attended the Woolworths Shareholder's Annual General Meeting earlier today in Cape Town. The discussion of the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel campaign and calls for Woolworths to terminate its Israeli relations were a special agenda item but activists and concerned shareholders also raised the issue under other agenda items.
Activists posed well researched and probing questions which left many Board members, Directors and the Chairman in particular, Mr Simon Sussman, embarrassed and flustered. The questions centered around Woolworth's ethics, commitment to human rights and respecting of international law given its trade relationship with Israel. 

In a particularly embarrassing instance, the Chairman, Mr Simon Sussman, told a packed AGM that he has responded to all queries from shareholders regarding the Israel boycott. To his embarrassment, a shareholder then pointed out to Mr Susman that she has been emailing him and the Board of Woolworths for several weeks with no response whatsoever from Mr Susman or the Woolworths Board. This was one of many mistrusts that were exposed at today's Woolworths AGM and brings into question the integrity of the board of Woolworths, and specifically its chairman.
At points the chairman lost complete control of the meeting and had later to apologise for not taking questions or comments. The AGM exposed Woolworths management's inability to answer easy and simple questions around the company's trade relations with Israel. One question was directed at Woolworth's recent acquisition of the Australian retailer David Jones that stocks the Israeli soda making machine, Sodastream. Sodastream has a plant in the illegal occuppied Palestinian territories. Woolworths promised to investigate this and its possible breaches of international law.
The chairman, Mr Sussman, admitted that the Woolworths brand is coming under pressure due to the boycott and promised to investigate. In an off the cuff comment, Mr Susmun, also admitted that the reason that Woolworths is maintaining relations with Israel is possible backlash from pro-Israeli supporters. This confirms that Woolworths is taking a side on the issue of trade with Israel and going out of its way to mantain Israeli trade at the expense of a growing boycott and loss of revenue. An independent report by a Wits University researcher released earlier this week found that Woolworths is experiencing an almost R8 million rands a month loss due to it maintaining a 12 million rand a year trade relationship with Israel.
A COSATU trade union representaive was present supporting the #BoycottWoolworths campaign from a worker perspective and some Jewish shareholders were also present who vocally backed the #BoycottWoolworths campaign and also called on the company to end its Israeli trade relations.
Kwara Kekana commented after the AGM: "We look forward to returning to next year's Woolworths AGM to celebrate Woolworth's termination of relations with Israel. Until the end of Israeli trade relations, we will continue with the #BoycottWoolworths campaign and in particular we will be intensifying it as we approach the festive season."


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