Dis-Chem faces boycott over “no whites” letter

Dis-Chem says it is concerned about the backlash following a moratorium on hiring white people, but it is too early to tell whether there will be a loss in sales.

On 13 October, Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann published a letter by Dis-Chem CEO Ivan Saltzman, which prohibits the appointment and promotion of white people.

“A moratorium is placed on the appointment of white individuals. This includes external appointments and internal promotions,” Saltzman said.

He explained that when no suitable black candidate is found, and a white is appointed, they need several blacks to maintain the status quo.

“The achievement of set employment equity targets will be incorporated into management’s bonus structure, and the allocation will be issued in due course,” he said.

Dis-Chem’s moratorium on employing or promoting white people drew sharp criticism from South African business and political leaders.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said Saltzman’s letter was racial and divisive.

“Racial quotas contributed to our current economic woes. Hire South Africans on merit and focus on training where you experience weaknesses,” Mashaba said.

Michael Cardo, the DA’s shadow minister of employment and labour, said Saltzman’s letter buys into and normalises the ANC’s social engineering in the crudest, most craven way.

Cardo added that it underscores the panic engendered by pending changes to employment equity legislation.

Trade Union Solidarity said Dis-Chem’s moratorium on hiring white people is illegal, and they are ready to take legal action against the “discriminatory policy”.

Ivan and Lynette Saltzman

The Dis-Chem CEO’s letter resulted in calls for a boycott of the pharmacy group by prominent South Africans.

Afriforum chief executive Kallie Kriel said he has placed a moratorium on supporting Dis-Chem because of their moratorium on hiring white employees.

Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said that his family would no longer shop at Dis-Chem.

Spur suffered a similar backlash when it banned a white male from the restaurant following an altercation with a black female.

A “boycott Spur” social media campaign followed. It gained traction, which resulted in big losses to the restaurant group.

Mark Farrelly, the former COO of Spur, said the boycott had a considerable impact on their business, especially in more conservative areas.

There are concerns that Dis-Chem may face a similar scenario which can affect sales in affluent areas.

Dis-Chem told Daily Investor it is concerned about a backlash and potential boycott from consumers.

“Customers are Dis-Chem’s priority, and the group is always concerned if consumers are unhappy,” it said.

The company added that it is too early to comment on a potential fall in sales and revenue.

Dis-Chem said it withdrew the original letter to staff as it was poorly worded. However, it stands by the unequivocal imperative to continue its transformation journey.

“Equality and diversity are important to Dis-Chem, and the group continues to make great strides in ensuring that it maintains progress in this area,” it said.

“We are a proudly South African business which promotes inclusivity and representation of all South Africans in their capacity as key stakeholders.”

Dis-Chem CEO Ivan Saltzman’s letter