In a sales catalogue, a black child wearing a hoodie bearing the slogan “coolest money in the jungle” has caused an outcry on social media. His black Nigerian-born mother, however, dismissed the cries of “racism” as as an “unnecessary issue” and said people should “get over it”.
The EFF protests affected six of H&M’s 17 South African stores and the company announced yesterday that it would close all its shops in the country until further notice after black mobs ransacked and looted their premises.
The police had to fire rubber bullets at the East Rand Mall on Saturday when EFF members began a wholesale looting spree of its shop.
FMW learned that in Sandton, the police only stood by, watching how the store was being trashed. Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said he was not aware of any arrests made during the looting and vandalism.
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Speaking at an EFF ground forces forum in Westenburg in Polokwane, EFF leader Juluis Malema defended the looting and violence by blacks saying that the dignity of black people “is not something to joke about”.
“No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people and is left unattended to. We make no apology about what the fighters did today against that store called H&M,” Malema declared.
“We are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us, to exclude us. We’re black we are proud, we are black we are beautiful. We are black and we are not ashamed of being black.”
In Menlyn Park in the east of Pretoria, EFF looters attacked members of the public when they began taking photos and videos of the damage.
At every vandalised shop, almost every piece of clothing was thrown to the ground and mirrors and mannequins were broken, but H&M SA said on Saturday they were “unaware of any damage inside several of our South African stores”.
“What matters most to us is the safety of our employees and customers. We have temporarily closed our stores in South Africa. None of our staff or customers has been injured.”
With 17 stores across South Africa, some 500 blacks rely on the retailer for employment. The employees would face an uphill battle to find new jobs. H&M’s annual turnover in South Africa in 2016/17 was almost R1 billion.
An increased police presence in malls across Gauteng and Cape Town have been announced for Sunday, with all H&M stores remaining closed until further notice.
Lawrence Mogashoa, who works at a shop opposite H&M in Sandton City, told South African daily City Press: “We initially thought it was a normal protest, but about 20 EFF members suddenly started attacking the shop. They kicked shop mannequins over, broke shelves and destroyed the shop in just a few minutes. They pelted the shop from outside with bananas and ran out of three different exits.”
EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu congratulated the looters: “Well done to fighters who physically confronted racism.”
A number of black EFF supporters protested at the V&A Waterfront’s H&M store in Cape Town and held up banners calling themselves “coolest monkeys” but no one seemed to notice the irony.
The management of H&M have meanwhile requested a meeting with the EFF to negotiate, FWM learned. Sources inside the EFF say that they have demanded money from the Swedish fashion retailer to stop the attacks on their stores.
Some have speculated that the closing of H&M would benefit the South African clothing retailer Mr Price.