BDS fails to derail Israeli-S. African multi-million dollar deal

Trade unions threaten mass action if deal continues going forward

Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate against South Africa-Israel relations in Cape Town in 2018. (photo credit: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS)
Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate against South Africa-Israel relations in Cape Town in 2018.
(photo credit: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS)
An attempt by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) in South Africa to derail the purchase of dairy giant Clover by a consortium led by Israel’s Central Bottling Company has failed.
On September 25, the deal was finally approved by South Africa’s Competition Commission.
The deal initially came to the forefront in February after Clover was offered by investors led by Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) $354 million (NIS 1.2 m.) buyout.
Following pressure from the BDS movement in South Africa, Brimstone Investments, one of the initial consortium members of the deal, pulled out. Despite this, everything still went ahead as planned.
The newly-formed consortium Milco, in which CBC holds a majority, offered to buy 59.5% of the South African dairy producer.
At the time, BDS SA spokesman Tisetso Magama said that CBC “has operations in Israel’s illegal settlements – both in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “CBC and its subsidiaries own a regional distribution center in the illegal Israeli Atarot settlement industrial zone, a vineyard near Mount Shifon in the occupied Golan Heights and a dairy farm, as well as offices in the illegal Israeli settlement of Shadmot Mehola in the Jordan Valley – all in violation of international law.”
The anti-Israel organization also warned that “if the deal proceeds, we will actively initiate, support and/or join the call for direct action and a militant but peaceful campaign, including protests and disruptions, against Clover and a boycott of all its products.”
However, in a statement released last week, BDS SA peddled back on the threats for mass protests and disruptions.
“While BDS SA had initially intended on embarking on a nationwide boycott and protest, we are of the view that this group of organizations have sufficiently and thoroughly considered the situation as well as developed concrete proposals, including lodging a formal legal appeal to the competition commission,” BDS SA said in the statement. “In this regard, we will be supporting these organizations in their lead on the Clover campaign.”
INSTEAD, BDS SA said that following discussions with an unnamed trade union, “together with a group of organizations [including the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the South African Jews for a Free Palestine], have developed a program of action to lead the campaign against the Israeli takeover of Clover.”
Meanwhile, several trade unions in South Africa have come out strongly against the approval of the deal.
In a joint statement, trade unions such as the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa and Food and Allied Workers Union representing workers at Clover and its subsidiaries, together with their union federation, South African Federation of Trade Unions and Palestinian solidarity organizations in South Africa, “condemned the recent judgment by the Competition Tribunal of South Africa on the takeover of Clover by Israeli-led company, Milco SA.”
The trade unions made it clear that they are considering to appeal the competition tribunal’s decision.
“In light of the serious problems associated with the takeover of Clover and with the main company involved in the buyout, we, too, are considering appealing the tribunal’s ruling,” the unions explained. “As workers and internationalists, we reject the notion that a company that is involved in land theft, human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law and supports apartheid practices should be allowed to operate freely and legitimately in South Africa, where we are still attempting to addresses the destructive consequences of apartheid on our people.”
They cited three main objections to the deal, claiming that “the takeover will have negative consequences for South African workers who will face job losses in the context of an already-struggling economy,” as well as “manipulative, unethical and anti-competitive practices by... the CBC... against which there are adverse findings in Israel,” and claims that the “CBC violation of international law, including UN resolutions and Geneva Conventions and the violation of human rights.”
The trade unions stressed that “it is unfortunate that the competition tribunal did not fully consider the submission made by trade unions, which explained these objections.”
“In the tribunal’s final order, many of these points were entirely ignored, especially those dealing with international law violations and the record of abuses by the CBC,” they added.
The unions warned that if the deal continued to go ahead, “we will consider mobilizing all our respective constituencies to engage in a mass campaign, led by the trade unions and solidarity organizations, to act against this gross injustice,” making their stand for the Palestinian people clear.
Moreover, the unions also called on the South African government “to respect international humanitarian law, and to consider legislating regulations that will prevent the entry of those who support war crimes and apartheid into our economy.”