In a move that could trigger further protests, high-end national retailer Wellness Warehouse has indicated that it will continue selling controversial Ahava products allegedly manufactured by Israel occupied territories.
The products, made by Israel-based Ahava Cosmetics were allegedly labeled to appear as though they were made in Israel yet activists claim that they were being made the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The past weekend saw a group of Pro-Palestine human rights activists protest outside the retailer's store on Kloof Street in Cape Town resulting in the products being temporarily removed from the shelves by the manager on duty.
The protesters, comprising University of Cape Town Palestinian Solidarity Forum (UCT PSF) and Open Shahuda Street (OSS), were under the impression the removal of the products was permanent, but yesterday the store said in a statement they had put them back on the shelves as the move was temporary and designed to reduce conflict with protestors.
On behalf of the retailer's director Sean Gomes, Sue Parker-Smith of Catalyst Communications claimed that on Saturday the protesters had disrupted the display of the products, confronted staff and the store management.
At the time, she said the on-duty store manager was unable to reach Gomes and could only call the operations manager.
"As he was unfamiliar with the matter, the operations manager instructed the on-duty store manager to remove the products in order to avoid any further conflict, until he could investigate further," she said.
When the protestors left the store, she said the store manager contacted "a Wellness director" who then instructed that the products be put back on the shelf.
"Wellness Warehouse lists products based on natural ingredients, health benefits, consumer demand and sales and not on political criteria." Wellness Warehouse is apolitical and relies on the South African government to deal with such sensitive, complex and controversial political issues.
"As retailers, we adhere to the laws of the South African government, including the rules and regulations governed by the Department of Trade and Industry.
"We urge the various lobbyist groups concerned with this matter to direct their efforts and agendas through the appropriate government channels," she said.
Influential activist Zackie Achmat, who is a committee member of OSS, on Monday said if the products were returned on the shelves, they would resume their call for protest.
UCT PSF spokesman Bruce Baigrie who on Monday was cautious about their victory, echoed the same sentiments. He said putting the products back on the shelves would be a huge disappointment for them.
Achmat said that for over two years they have been trying to talk Wellness Warehouse into respecting the international call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel due to its alleged oppression of the Palestinian people.