Protest outside Woolworths offices as AGM commences

Some activists bought shares in the company and have taken the fight to the boardroom.

A group of pro-Palestine demonstrators have gathered outside of Woolworths in Cape Town’s CBD on 26 November 2014. Picture: Regan Thaw/EWN

CAPE TOWN - A group of pro-Palestine protesters have gathered outside the Woolworths head office in Cape Town as the annual general meeting (AGM) gets underway.

Demonstrators are part of the National Coalition for Palestine, which is spearheading a campaign calling on the retail giant to stop trading with Israeli companies.

As a demonstrator read out the names of Palestinians killed in fighting to Israeli forces, others spontaneously shouted 'Woolworths supports genocide'.

Apart from these outbursts, demonstrators' feelings are clearly evident in the placards, one of which reads, 'Woolworths, stop your unethical trading'.

A woman can also been seen lying on the ground near the main entrance of the offices, apparently she is meant to symbolise what the protesters are calling human rights atrocities inflicted by the Jewish State.

Today's protest is part of a broader campaign aimed at pressuring South African companies to stop doing business with Israel.

A Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) official at the protest says other firms are also in their cross-hairs.

Meanwhile, activists calling for the boycott of Woolworths have taken the fight to the boardroom today, attending the company's AGM to push for a vote to cut trade relations with Israel.

The Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) group has become an active shareholder of the retailer and has teamed up with existing shareholders, to intensify the campaign to end the R12 million agreement.

The group has bought individual shares for activists and says it will attempt to persuade the entire board to make the drastic move.

The campaign's Muhammed Desai said, "We're going to make sure that we lobby the entire house to take this position. If it has to go to a vote, it will, where we're sure it will win."

On Tuesday, the High Court in Johannesburg granted an order that Woolworths' management has its first face-to-face meeting with the activists before 10 December.

The order also reads that nobody will be allowed to protest in anyway at any Woolworths store.