EFF shreds H&M stores
Rubber bullets were fired at the East Rand Mall on Saturday when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members protesting against H&M began looting its shop.
The EFF staged protests at H&M shops in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal against racism in a catalogue photograph in which a little black boy wears a hoodie bearing the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle”.
The protests affected six of the group’s 17 South African stores and H&M announced yesterday it would close all its shops in the country until further notice.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said police had to intervene at the East Rand Mall because protesters were emptying the shop. Dlamini was not aware of any arrests.
At other shops, such as in Menlyn Park in the east of Pretoria, protesters in red EFF T-shirts and berets pushed members of the public aside and chased them after they began taking photos and videos.
At every vandalised shop, almost every piece of clothing was thrown to the ground and mirrors and mannequins were broken. No one was injured.
EFF leader Julius Malema told a party gathering in Polokwane yesterday that protesters had shown H&M what would happen if it humiliated black people.
“Nobody is allowed to use skin colour to humiliate people. Any business or person that supports racism must know that we are coming for them. This is the year we are going to fight racism head-on,” he said.
“We are black and proud, black and beautiful and we are not ashamed of being black. Educated people do not tolerate racism or discrimination.”
There were protests outside all five H&M stores in Gauteng yesterday, including at the Mall of the South, East Rand Mall, Sandton City, Clearwater Mall and Menlyn Park. There were protesters at Mpumalanga’s Highveld Mall in eMalahleni and the i’langa Mall in Mbombela.
H&M’s annual turnover in South Africa in 2016/17 was almost R1bn. The chain employs 471 locals.
H&M SA yesterday said the chain was “aware of property 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.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and will open the stores as soon as it is safe again. We strongly believe that racism and bias in any shape or form, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable. We stress that our wonderful store staff had nothing to do with our poorly judged product and image.”
H&M’s South African spokesperson, Amelia-May Woudstra, said the company was still quantifying the damage in its stores.
Lawrence Mogashoa, a worker at Cape Union Mart opposite H&M in Sandton City, said: “About 20 EFF members arrived at 11am. They stood for an hour in front of the shop, singing and clapping their hands. We thought it was a normal protest, but they 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.”
During the protest in Menlyn, EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu said: “That nonsense of a clothing store is now facing consequences for its racism. All rational people should agree that the store should not be allowed to continue operating in South Africa. Well done to fighters who physically confronted racism.”
Earlier this week, local advertising and marketing experts told City Press that H&M and other companies that publish racist advertisements faced no consequences because South African consumers were quick to forget.
Branding and advertising expert Thebe Ikalafeng described the picture in the H&M catalogue as an unacceptable offence on three levels – cultural, legal and professional.
“A monkey is a revered totem for a significant segment of society. It’s also an offence against the majority of people of colour against whom, throughout history, this term has been used derogatively to dehumanise them,” Ikalafeng said.
He said many big brands were arrogant, presumptuous and focused only on their bottom line. They don’t have “in their talent pool the people who would intuitively be able to vet” their ideas.
Advertising guru Andy Rice didn’t believe the company necessarily lacked diversity in its marketing team, but said the problem might be that they didn’t have anyone representing the markets they were trying to serve.
“Ultimately, it’s complete stupidity and lack of managerial skills on behalf of the client and supplier.
“This was a situational oversight and a complete lack of understanding from the creative team – the account executive, stylist and creative director.
“Anyone could have asked: ‘Are you sure this is the right kid to put in this campaign?’”
WHAT ABOUT THE BOY?
Terry Mango, the Nigeria-born Swedish mother of the child model who appeared in the H&M catalogue, has accused those who were offended by the sweatshirt her son was wearing of making a fuss about nothing.
Mango wrote on Facebook: “Am the mum and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modelled ... stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here ... get over it.”
The UK’s Daily Mail reported that Mango went on to say she “really doesn’t understand” the problem, “not coz am choosing not to but because it’s not my way of thinking sorry [sic].” She later added that “everyone is entitled to their opinion”.
It was reported that Mango accompanied her son on the photoshoot.
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