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Protesters at AGM: Much hot air, little to show




But, in the end, the institutional shareholders (who really are the ones who count) gave Woolworths’ management and board a solid pat on the back – seeing through all the smoke and mirrors that a small band of activists utilising a large contingent of rent-a-crowd supporters could throw at them.

Woolies AGM liveTo be sure, Woolworths’ annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday was no picnic. It was continually disrupted by shareholders demonstrating against the retailer’s purchase of pretzels, figs and pomegranates from Israel.

The anti-Israeli protesters who attended the AGM were frustrated at not being able to have an impact of Woolworths despite their constant disruption, as shareholders were frustrated. were disappointed after their attempts were foiled by the board. But Woolworths Chairman Simon Susman had his work cut out for him at the packed AGM, where some shareholders and protesters wanted clarity on Woolworths’ ties with Israel.

Neither was there any apparent concern about the BDS-led demonstrators outside the building. Read how BDS were so rattled by Woolworths’ success in court this week that they became rattled and “obfuscated the truth” to, and clearly misled their members in a press release on Tuesday: All this for Figs, Pretzels & a few Pomegranates

Ample support for Israel at AGM

But Israel had ample supporters at the AGM as well. An Internet blogger said: “…the boycott should then be extrapolated to other countries like Zimbabwe (which is also a beneficiary of Woolworths’ imports) since Zimbabwe is also guilty of human rights infringements”.

Woolies agm demoLEFT: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest outside the Cape Town head office of the retailer where the AGM was taking place.

BDS-led anti-Israeli campaigners continually interrupted yesterday’s meeting in Cape Town, questioning how Woolworths would respond to the risk of a widespread boycott and seeking the opinion of directors up for re-election.

Another 40-odd people protested outside Woolworths’ headquarters where the meeting was being held.

BDS’ campaign aims to force the retailer to stop trading with Israeli companies. As a demonstrator read out the names of Palestinians killed in fighting Israeli forces in the recent Gaza conflict, others shouted: “Woolworths supports genocide!”

They also made their feelings clear in a host of anti-Israel placards they were carrying.

BDS has become an active shareholder and has teamed up with other shareholders to try to force South Africa to end its R12 million a year trade with Israel.

One of the activists, Marthie Momberg said in the AGM she was “shocked at how we, as shareholders were treated in the AGM”.

Protesters’ hot air came to naught

A BDS protester, Abram Agulhas, said: “We don’t want a two-state solution, we want a one-state solution”.

Another, Surgeon Masooane, former deputy chairman of Sasco in Gauteng, said: “If they say it’s a mere three products (they buy from Israel), why don’t they stop buying them in solidarity and put an end to what they view as an onslaught against them by BDS?”

Woolworths said trading for the first six weeks of the second half of the financial year had been positive “and we expect sales growth to be broadly in line with the first half”.

On its “Ethics and Integrity” it said: “A strong value system has always been at the core of the WH Group”.

“We have repeatedly stated we do not source from the occupied territories,” Chairman Simon Susman told shareholders at the meeting. Susman was referring to complaints from DAS members and affiliates who had bought Woolworths shares ahead of the meeting to put pressure on management.

These were led by the SA arm of the US-based NGO Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS). Woolworths management plans to meet with BDS, which has led calls for a boycott since August, Susman said. CEO Ian Moir didn’t attend the annual meeting after injuring both legs in a fall in Sydney.

Woolworths bought David Jones of Australia for R22 billion in August.

Woolies agm demo home1RIGHT: Respected financial publishing house Bloomberg show that Woolworths’ shares have risen from a low of R5,615 in Feruary to a high of R8,174 this month: CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

While calls to boycott Woolworths are affecting sales at some stores and staff and customers have been intimidated, the retailer won’t buckle to pressure to stop stocking Israeli produce, according to Chairman Simon Susman.

Cannot concede to one interest group

“The minute you concede to one interest group, particularly a political interest group, I promise you there are 15 others,” Susman told reporters after the meeting. “It’s not for us to play politics. Our job is to provide our customers with the range of products that they expect. We have many divergent customer groups.”

Demonstrators bought Woolworths shares ahead of the meeting to entitle them to speak at the event and put pressure on management, Boycott Divestment Sanctions South Africa said last week. The protesters have the backing of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest labour group that’s affiliated with the ruling African National Congress.

Intimidating staff forced WW to get Interdict

Woolworths management plans to meet with BDS, which has led calls for a boycott since August, Susman told shareholders. “Overall it’s very difficult to see a pattern” as to what impact the boycott call will have, he said. “They have been very threatening and very intimidating to both staff and customers.”

Initial indications are that Woolworths could meet its target of saving at least R1,3-billion annually in five years by increasing efficiency at the newly-acquired Australian chain (David Jones), Susman said.

“The things that we felt should be done, can be done,” he said. “It’s a good business and its got a brand equity which is quite remarkable.

Follow the back-story on SAJR.CO.ZA

25 NOV: BDS lies for Figs, Pretzels & Pomegranates -BY ANT KATZ

18 NOV: Woolies gets tough, BDS gets desperate -BY ANT KATZ

18 NOV: BDS’ smoke & mirror campaign continues  -BY ANT KATZ

14 NOV: Beware of swine flu – a contagious disease!  – Blog: Roro

14 NOV: Woolies gets BDS anti-demo interdict  -BY ANT KATZ

12 NOV: This BDS piggy went to market… -Blog: ROLENE MARKS

12 NOV: Talk about putting your foot in the pigsty –Blog: ANT KATZ

11 NOV: Students have wings clipped on pigs -BY ANT KATZ

05 NOV:Now everyone jumps onto the pig-wagon -BY ANT KATZ

05 NOV: Pig’s head incident: BDS implicated by association -BY NAT CHEIMAN

04 NOV: Bergman to ANC: Control pig-headed affiliates –BY ANT KATZ

04 NOV:From a pig’s head to Mauritian celebration-BY MARY KLUK

31 OCT:Jewish community says no to hate speech-BY ANT KATZ (great pics)

31 OCT: COSAS’ clowns are chasing their own tails -BY ANT KATZ

30 OCT: Cosas shows the worst anti-Semitic face -BY MARY KLUK

29 OCT: Cape Town anti-anti-Semitism demo Thursday -BY ANT KATZ

29 OCT: Woolies: Hooligans nabbed in Jhb, Cape Town -BY ANT KATZ

29 OCT: The dangerous politics of pigs’ heads -BY GEOFF SIFRIN

24 OCT: Board condemns pigs in ‘kosher’ counter -BY ANT KATZ

6 OCT: Woolies threatens tough line against BDS, protesters

5 OCT:Onslaught against Woolies continues nationwide

1 SEPT: BDS shuts Rosebank Woolies on Shabbos

1 SEPT: BDS in SA is an abject failure says Fed’s Levitas

29 JULY: Woolies rubbish rumours of going Gaza on Israel (184 Comments)

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