Unappealing

Crisis management reps for complainant in “Banting for Babies trial” say they were inspired by controversial “apartheid architect” Hendrik Verwoerd

I recently blogged about the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), whose former president reported University of Capetown professor Tim Noakes to medical authorities for a single tweet in February 2014 (click here to read more).

ADSA hired crisis management company Hewers to field questions about its uncertain role as complainant in the case subsequently brought against Noakes by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

After a lengthy legal battle lasting just under two years, last month Noakes was found not guilty of unprofessional conduct. The HPCSA is currently appealing the verdict.

Professor Noakes during Banting for Babies trial” (source)

Trying to get answers from Hewers CEO Neeran Naidoo about ADSA’s role proved futile, but last week I got an interesting tip regarding the etymology of the name “Hewers.”

Via Irvine, CA Ophthalmologist Dr. James H. Johnson:

source

The Hewers website states that “the name Hewers was inspired by a speech by apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd,” and even quotes “the late politician” as saying that “black South Africans ought to be trained to become ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water.’”

source

Verwoerd is a hugely divisive figure in South Africa.

As prime minister during the late fifties and sixties, Verwoerd “introduced numerous laws to establish the raced-based discriminatory system known as apartheid – earning him the title, architect of apartheid.” (Robertson, 2010)

Hendrik Verwoerd (source)

In March 1960, government forces in the South African township of Sharpeville opened fire on a crowd of peaceful black protesters, killing 69 people. Speaking to the British press one year later, Verwoerd described apartheid as “a policy of good neighbourliness.”

In the mid-thirties, Verwoerd (himself an immigrant to South Africa) protested the arrival of Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany.

I’ve asked Neeran Naidoo if he believes that openly taking inspiration from such a divisive figure helps with his company’s stated goal of “protecting personal and brand reputation.”

I’ve also asked ADSA’s current president Maryke Gallagher for her take.

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3 thoughts on “Unappealing”

  1. Wow, that is a very tone deaf association for a PR firm to make, but I notice that Naidoo claims association with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. I guess he is trying to “own the insult”. He somewhat misquotes/misinterprets Verwoerd though. Verwoerd was referencing Joshua 9:23 “Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” This was in the context of a speech to parliament defending increased spending on education for the black population, implying that it would have been immoral to deny them the opportunity to become “hewers of ideas”.

    1. Thanks for commenting, it’s good to have some historical context, and it’s possible Naidoo was in fact trying to “own the insult.” Either way, you’d think a PR company would know better than to link itself so ambiguously with someone like Verwoerd.

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