The influential lobby in South Africa advocating a boycott of the State of Israel was forced into a climbdown this week, as it abandoned plans for an ambitious protest campaign against the takeover of local dairy giant Clover Industries by a Tel Aviv-based consortium.
In a statement released on Wednesday, BDS South Africa — the boycott lobby’s campaigning arm — said it was instead supporting a last-ditch legal attempt to nix the deal that is being led by two labor unions. The purchase of Clover by Israel’s Central Bottling Company was approved on Sept. 25 by South Africa’s Competition Commission.
“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,” the BDS South Africa statement explained. “In this regard, we will be supporting these organizations in their lead on the Clover campaign.”
The statement added that, “notwithstanding the above, BDS SA is not discouraging anybody in their individual capacity from buying more ethical alternatives.”
When the outlines of the $354 million deal between Clover and the Central Bottling Company first emerged in February, the BDS lobby threatened what one pro-Israel activist in South Africa termed “fire and brimstone.”
One of the partners in the South African consortium, Brimstone Investments, even pulled out of the proposed deal because of pressure from pro-BDS lobbyists.
But those efforts had since petered out, the pro-Israel activist said.
“It’s been a great big failure,” the activist told The Algemeiner in an email on Friday.
While the BDS movement in South Africa retains strong support among labor union officials and the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the country’s private sector has shown increasing enthusiasm for cooperating with Israeli companies. Speaking at a recent conference women business leaders in Johannesburg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded Israel’s technology sector as a model for the country to follow.
“They are leading by leaps and bounds,” Ramaphosa noted.