The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) met with representatives of H&M to discuss the recent advertising campaign that sparked protests at their South African stores.
The Commission conveyed to H&M the hurtful consequences of their campaign, which have struck a nerve in South Africa.
“The Commission further stated that in the context of South Africa, words such as ‘baboon’ and ‘monkey’ are not neutral terms, and were used to demean the fundamental humanity of black people and that this association was used to rationalise the construction of a race-based caste system, which positioned certain races as superior to others.”
H&M reiterated the apology they issued earlier this week and indicated that the company is aware that an apology is insufficient to address the hurt the campaign had caused.
“We made a terrible mistake and we would like South Africans to understand that it will never happen again,” H&M representative, Rob Hekkers said.
H&M has committed to instituting diversity training for its staff and to devising a plan to address the issues the offensive campaign has raised.
H&M also agreed to provide the SAHRC with a copy of the plan, by no later than Friday 26 January 2018, for the Commission’s input before finalisation.
The SAHRC says they made attempts to engage the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) but attempts to meet the EFF were not successful. The Commission promised to continue to engage the EFF on this matter.
This follows protests in several H&M stores around the country over the ‘offensive’ advert.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema had called on South Africans to stay away from H&M stores after the recent ‘racist’ advert saga.
“We should stay away from H&M and if I were H&M I would not even open the stores because the unannounced actions of the EFF may continue if there is no positive response from H&M,” he said.