Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) leader Julius Malema says the violent attacks on Gauteng and Western Cape H&M clothing stores was an act opposing humiliation of black people.
On Saturday, large groups of EFF members in red regalia raided and ransacked the Swedish clothing stores, with shops at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, Sandton and the East Rand Mall most affected by the vandalism.
Their outrage was sparked by a “racist” online advert for the retailer in which a black child was wearing an H&M sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” on it.
After having rejected South Africans’ labelling of the EFF’s retaliation as “barbaric” and unnecessary, Malema said the dignity of black people was not something to joke about.
“We cannot allow the humiliation of black people to continue. No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people. “We make no apology for what the fighters did against H&M. All over South Africa, H&M stores are closed because they called our children baboons. So we are teaching them a lesson. “We are not going to allow anyone to use the colour of our skin to humiliate us; to exclude us. We are black. We are proud. We are black and beautiful. We are black and not ashamed of being black,” Malema said.
The retailer announced their stores would remain temporarily closed to ensure the safety of customers and employees.
“We are aware of the recent events in several of our South African stores. Out of concern for the safety of our employees and customers, we have temporarily closed all stores in the area. “We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our store staff had nothing to do with our poor judgment in producing the children’s hoodie and the image,” H&M said.
Police are investigating cases of malicious damage to property against those involved, Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said.
While opposition party the Democratic Alliance agreed there was no place for racism in the country, national spokesperson and deputy chairperson Refiloe Ntsekhe called on Malema to pay for the damage his party members had caused.
“Malema must pay back the money for all damages incurred and compensate the employees who had to put in more hours clearing up the mess. “Trashing of stores cannot be condoned as it does not begin to topple the real elephant in the room: racism.”