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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Statement: Meeting between the South African Human Rights Commission and Clicks Group Limited

Attention: Editors and Reporters

11 September 2020

On Friday, 11 September 2020, the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission or the SAHRC) met with health and beauty retailer Clicks Group Limited. This meeting was convened by the Commission following a racist advertisement that appeared on Clicks’ website. This advertisement was published in contravention of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, which prohibits unfair discrimination in general, specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race and gender, and furthermore explicitly prohibits the publication and dissemination of information that unfairly discriminates. The Commission had sent a letter, calling for this meeting with Clicks to understand circumstances that led to the publication of the advert and to understand accountability and sensitivity measures taken by Clicks to guard against the publication of such offensive material in the future.
At the meeting, Clicks’ Group CEO, Vikesh Ramsunder, reiterated the company’s apology and disappointment at the advert. Mr Ramsunder explained, exactly, how the advertisement, created by a third party, came to be published on Clicks’ website and detailed measures that would be put in place to prevent a repeat offense.  Mr Ramsunder and Ms Engelbrecht, the Head of Human Resources for the Clicks Group, informed the Commission about on-going transformation training that will be carried out for all staff within Clicks, but particularly for management.  Mr Ramsunder also made a firm undertaking to engage its suppliers on its transformation agenda, in an attempt to ensure that no insensitive advertising be created and published, in future.

Clicks further conceded that the said advertisement was offensive and distasteful, racist, and unfairly discriminatory, and confirmed the unconscious bias involved in the publication of the advert.  The Commission has noted that Clicks has taken significant measures to ensure that staff that were involved are held accountable, and that the correct monitoring structures are put in place including structures to audit future third party supplied material, and provide sensitisation training to employees.

The Commission acknowledged this apology, together with other measures the company had taken since the call for the meeting. The Commission reiterated its constitutional mandate, to promote; protect; and monitor human rights in South Africa. The Commission’s Chairperson, Adv. Bongani Majola, stressed to Clicks that the nature of the advert on Clicks’ website, together with others in the retail industry, is inconsistent with the constitutional objectives of South Africa, transformation and efforts to promote social cohesion.

Although the meeting was fruitful and Clicks undertook to avail significant internal documents on transformation and measures the company will adopt going forward, the Commission will continue to engage with Clicks through the auspices of its current investigation. This will include the review of Clicks’ current policies dealing with diversity and inclusivity, as well as it procedures that they will use to determine which content is constitutionally compliant.

During the engagement with Clicks, it emerged clearly that structural racism continues to hinder the industry more broadly. To this effect, the Commission’s Gauteng Provincial Office will together with the KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape Offices convene an inquiry into the advertising industry, advertising standards and their adherence to human rights in an endeavour to address structural racism in the industry.

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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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