Palestinian solidarity groups will picket Saturday in front of Africa Padel courts across the country.
- Africa Padel faces boycott threats following recent remarks from its president, Robert Hersov.
- In a viral social media post, Hersov can be seen hurling expletives at people carrying Palestinian flags.
- Africa Padel distanced itself from Hersov’s comments.
- For more financial news, visit Front page of News24 Business.
South Africa’s largest group of padel clubs, Africa Padel, has been threatened with a boycott following controversial comments from its president Robert Hersov in the context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
In the video, widely distributed on social networks this weekend, Hersov is seen at a rally with other Israeli supporters. He then allegedly gestured to the group of people carrying Palestinian flags behind him and said, “Fuck these guys!” »
Although it is unclear where the gathering took place, an Israeli prayer meeting was scheduled to take place on Sunday on the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town. The meeting was, however, canceled for “security reasons” after heightened tensions between the groups led to the deployment of stun grenades and water cannons by police.
The video sparked criticism from social media users and pro-Palestinian groups, who urged South Africans to boycott Africa Padel. #BoycottAfricaPadel also circulated on social media platforms, with users canceling their reservations at clubs.
Padel is a popular new sport, which is a mixture of tennis and squash and is played on an enclosed court.
Hersov is one of eight associates of Africa Padel founder and Swedish businessman, Philippe Kjellgren, who invested more than R50 million to fund the company’s launch two years ago.
There are now 14 Africa Padel clubs across the country, which host 62 courts. The company says more than 45,000 players play on its courts and claims to have a 31% current market share.
The civil organization, the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA), announced a national campaign picket at various clubs in Sandton, Camps Bay, Roodepoort and Durban.
PSA Youth League coordinator Altaaf Adams said Hersov’s comments were a “call to action.” He said the ongoing boycott and Saturday’s picket aims to raise awareness of the continued oppression of the Palestinian people and demand clarification from Africa Padel on its position regarding the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
Africa Padel has distanced itself from the president’s comments in response to the current uproar on social media.
A statement on its Instagram account told customers that they “remain neutral on political matters” and that “any personal opinions expressed by people associated with Africa Padel are their own and are not representative of the company.”
“We understand the concerns raised and would like to assure you that Africa Padel is committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated,” they said.
South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) coalition coordinator Roshan Badoo said: “Many people in South Africa should not give a lot of money to a company (whose representative) criticizes the protests peaceful and supports the blatant genocide committed by Israel. “.
Badoo claimed that there had been several canceled reservations from Africa Padel customers.
“(As an organization) we are calling for a targeted boycott of complicit companies that have supported Israel since Palestine did in 2005… We want to boycott until the company can publicly declare that “She doesn’t support Israel,” she said.
The current bloodshed in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’ attack on Israel last month, which killed 1,200 people. Israel responded by launching military attacks on the territory. More than 11,100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the attacks began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Hersov is a mining heir whose family owned AngloVaal. He made headlines on its failed attempt to buy six regional airports Last year. It is also involved in plans to transform a small airfield near Cape Town’s northern suburbs into an airport hub.
Last year, a Lithuanian actor of Russian origin admitted making a false asylum application to enter South Africa to attend. a series of evenings organized by Hersov.
News24 has contacted Hersov and Africa Padel CEO James Barber for comment. They didn’t respond.