One of the trashed H&M shops. File photo: African News Agency/ANA

The Democratic Alliance on Sunday strongly condemned the violence and vandalism at retail shops in Gauteng by Economic Freedom Fighters supporters over a racist advert.

"While we fully agree that racism is oppressive and has no place in a democratic South Africa, inciting violence and acts of destruction to property must be equally condemned," DA national spokesperson Refiloe Nt'sekhe said.

The SAPS said on Saturday there had been several incidents during protests at H&M shops around the province.

“At the East Rand Mall the protesters managed to enter the shop and stole several items. Police had to intervene and dispersed the group of protesters by firing rubber bullets,” Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said. 

“In Menlyn [in Pretoria] protesters also managed to enter the shop and threw clothing around. At this stage nothing has been reported to have been stolen.  

"The shops in all other areas are reported to have been closed and police are monitoring the situation. No arrests have been effected up to so far,” Dlamini said.

The H&M shop inside the majestic Menlyn Mall was closed and cordoned off on Saturday after it was hit by EFF protests.

H&M — Hennes & Mauritz AB — a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company was involved in a race row earlier this week when a photo depicting a black child modelling a sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” sparked widespread outrage on social media, with local and international celebrities blasting the retailer.

On Sunday, Nt'sekhe said the EFF should be held accountable for the damage as a result of deplorable vandalism, and EFF leader Julius Malema "must pay back the money" for all damage and compensate the employees who had to put in more hours clearing the mess.

"Trashing of stores cannot be condoned as it does not begin to topple the real elephant in the room – racism.

"This violent act clearly shows that the EFF is not genuine in their solidarity with the employees who now might face possible job losses in a country that is grappling with high rates of unemployment and stagnant economy," Nt'sekhe said.

There were other effective and non-violent ways to fight institutional racism and destruction of property did not even begin to solve the problem, but compounded it.

"The type of disruptive behaviour displayed by the EFF is not the kind of approach we can use to express our disgust over racism. We must fervently resist justifying violent conduct disguised as a tool to fight racism which is still present in our society.

"The EFF leadership must be held accountable for inciting their members to trash stores. It is acts like these that expose the EFF for what they truly are – short-sighted with no solutions for the issues facing South Africa today," Nt'sekhe said.

African News Agency (ANA)