Campaign to stop Woolies from trading with Israel intensifies

Cosatu says some of its affiliates are now buying Woolworths shares to prep for the company's AGM.

FILE: BDS group members sit alongside some Woolworths shareholders as the campaign to stop Woolworths from stocking Israeli products intensifies. Picture:  Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) says some of its affiliates have started buying Woolworths Holdings shares, in preparation for the company's Annual General Meeting, where it plans to raise calls for it to boycott Israeli trade.

The retail giant has become the focus of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at compelling companies to end trade relationships with Israel over its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The BDS group launched its boycott Woolworths campaign in August this year during the seven-week war between Israel and Palestine in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the group appeared with disgruntled Woolworths shareholders.

Cosatu's Patrick Craven says the federation has decided to support shareholder activism.

"Our deputy international secretary is now a shareholder in Woolworths and various Cosatu affiliates are also now considering buying shares and getting involved in shareholder activism. Some of Cosatu investment companies will get involved, taking up progressive courses like this."

The Woolworths/Israeli trade agreement is worth about R12 million and the activists want it cancelled in support of the people of Palestine.

But the retail giant says it has responded to all of BDS's correspondence and maintains that it will not ban any country from trading with its stores.

Shareholder representative, Nadia Hassan, said they were seriously concerned by how the company has reacted to calls for a boycott of Israeli goods.

BDS coordinator, Muhammed Desai, said the group has been brushed off and repeated requests for meetings have been denied.

"They want to wish away the issue and ignore the campaign."

But Woolworths has denied this and says it has been discussing the campaign with the group's members for months.