Woolies wins court action against protesters
Judge orders retailer to hold talks with campaigners
THEY may not blow whistles inside the stores or use loudhailers to draw customers’ attention.
Nor can they dance, play loud music or lie on the floor, feigning death.
These were just some of the things members of Boycott Divestment Sanctions South Africa (BDS) have been prohibited from doing following nationwide protests against Woolworths.
The retailer brought an urgent application against BDS in the high court in Joburg and, by agreement, BDS undertook not to organise protests against Woolworths stores pending a December 10 meeting between the parties.
Judge Colin Lamont made the agreement an order of court.
BDS’s campaign against Woolworths is over its trade links with Israel, a country that the group says routinely abuses human rights in Palestine.
Woolworths sells Israeli figs, pretzels, pomegranates and couscous.
The two parties will meet on or before December 10 and, pend- ing the outcome of that meeting, BDS was ordered not to encourage “the harassment, intimidation and the causing of psychological or physical harm” to Woolworths employees.
BDS was also ordered to refrain from conducting the following forms of protest:
“Lie in”, during which protesters scream and lie on the floor, blocking aisles and feigning death.
“Till jamming”, in which protesters pile their trolleys with goods, have the items rung up by the cashier, and then refuse to pay, demanding that Woolworths stop stocking Israeli goods.
Placing stickers displaying BDS messages on goods inside Woolworths stores.
Distributing pamphlets inside Woolworths stores.
Playing loud music and/or blowing whistles in the stores.
Singing, dancing and toyi-toying inside Woolworths stores.
Using loudhailers to convey their views in Woolworths stores.
Damaging goods inside Woolworths stores.
Preventing customers entering Woolworths stores or their free flow inside the stores.
BDS spokeswoman Kwara Kekana welcomed the court order, saying it “affirms BDS South Africa’s stance, and we are looking forward to meeting with the management of Woolworths to make our case for why Woolworths should terminate its trade relations with Israel”.
She said the order was positive in that “Woolworths arrogantly insisted for the past four months that they ‘cannot see what a meet- ing would achieve’.”
Another spokesman, Muhammed Desai, said BDS would attend the Woolworths annual general meeting today as “several BDS South Africa activists have bought shares in the company and intend to make the meeting the next site of the campaign”.
Woolworths’ group director of retail operations, Paula Disberry, said the retailer “welcomes the court decision to protect our customers and employees from unlawful BDS in-store protests”.
She added: “The court decision also enforces our right to trade free of threats and intimidation.”