apartheid bag woolworths

Image: Reddit/CoenievanderWesthuysen

Woolworths pulls bag with apartheid colours from shelves, apologises

Woolworths issued an apology after selling a Country Road tote bag with orange, white and blue stripes. Sale of the bag has since been discontinued.

apartheid bag woolworths

Image: Reddit/CoenievanderWesthuysen

Attention was first brought to the bag when Reddit user u/CoenieOostuysen shared a photo of the bag the social media platform with the caption: “Someone in Country Road’s design department is about to get fired”.

The image spread like wildfire across the social media sphere, forcing Woolworths to pull the bags from sale, and issued an apology for the faux pas.

What did the manufacturer say?

Speaking to Business Insider, Country Roads, a division of Woolworths, explained that the bag was designed in Australia and incorporates a five-stripe design which is “updated seasonally in new colours”.

This season’s colours are “Azure Blue, Marshmallow, Orange, Baby Blue and Navy. The outlet said it was never their “intention to cause offence,” and have as such “discontinued sales of the item”.

Why is the ‘apartheid bag’ causing an uproar?

This follows just three months after the Equality Court ruled against the gratuitous display of the old South African flag, deeming that the display constitutes as hate speech, harassment and an expression of white superiority.

While Woolworth’s explanation that the bag was designed overseas makes sense, it doesn’t really explain how it managed to find it’s way onto South African shelves without someone seeing them and thinking they might not be the best fit for the SA market.

The seemingly innocent mistake is compounded by the unfortunate timing as the country continues to grapple with the outlawing of the flag. As such, there are still those who still argue that it should be allowed as in the name of freedom of expression.

This incident will most likely only fuel the flame of discontent around the flag. While the bag was problematic, the company would most likely have been within their rights to keep it on their shelves.

Woolworth’s no doubt will be keen to manage this most recent PR mistake. The brand has navigated a number of publicity problems in recent years as they have had to answer a number of accusations from local entrepreneurs who have alleged that the brand has copied their products.

Social media reacts to the Woolies’ apology

Gauteng MEC for Education and Youth Development, Panyaza Lesufi, shared the image on Twitter, with the caption: “Sorry [Woolworths], keep your sorry, eintlek le ya re tlwaela nou! Please don’t undermine our collective power to take this battle back to you”.

Netizens soon joined the debate, with a user known as Ntombi saying that the best way to deal with incidents such as these, is to “ignore racist companies and not buy anything from them”, while Richard Ntakaile confirmed:

“That’s where it needs to start. First we starve their business and nature them understand they can’t get any richer without our black money. Then we deal with these privately owned fenced areas that allow them to have racists lifestyle. I’m really getting sick of this disrespect”.

Another user questioned how “not even a single person saw a problem with this”, despite the “processes a product goes through”. At the other end of the spectrum, and not so eloquently, The Anonymous ZA said:

“Just when you think Panya [sic] can’t be any more childish and small minded [sic], he surprises you”.