South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday used Heritage Day to end negative business practices in the country, whose people two weeks ago took to the streets to protest against a “racist” hair advert denigrating African women’s hair as being undesirable.The online advert on health and beauty retail giant Clicks’ page described black women’s hair as “frizzy, dry and damaged” and that of a white woman’s hair as being “fine, flat and normal.”
The uproar over the advert led the militant opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) and its supporters to stage violent protests against Clicks for a week during which shops were trashed and firebombed, forcing the company to shut down till things calmed down following an apology.
In his virtual Heritage Day address, Ramaphosa called on the country’s firms to be more sensitive to people’s racial and cultural differences when carrying out their businesses in South Africa.
“We must stand firm against attempts to disrespect our country’s women through crude forms of representation in the media, advertising and popular culture,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the offensive Clicks advert “shows that we still have a long way to go.”
“It is disheartening to see in this democratic South Africa that there are still crude stereotypes of black women being put on public display,” he said.
“The social coercion we seek in this country means we must be mindful of the legacy of our past.”
This year’s Heritage Day is themed “Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures”, with prominent women selected to represent “the human treasures” throughout September, according to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday.