A ransacked H&M store. Picture: TWITTER/@FloydShivambu
A ransacked H&M store. Picture: TWITTER/@FloydShivambu

Swedish multinational clothing retailer H&M was unable to clarify which of its 17 stores nationally would be open on Monday, amid hints from the EFF that protests against the retailer would continue.

The EFF has accused H&M of racism amid widespread global outrage after the retailer used a black child to model a hoodie with the slogan "Coolest monkey in the jungle".

EFF supporters protested at several H&M stores in Gauteng at the weekend, with police reportedly firing rubber bullets at the East Rand Mall. The police said no arrests were made but they were investigating a case of malicious damage to property.

The trashing of retail outlets coincided with the ANC’s January 8 statement from party president Cyril Ramaphosa.

As the ANC hogs more positive headlines and as President Jacob Zuma is increasingly seen as yesterday’s man, opposition parties will find it more difficult to capture the public’s attention, according to political analysts.

H&M stores apology on Twitter

EFF leader Julius Malema reportedly refused to apologise for the damage on Saturday, while spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi declined to go into details about further protests. Ndlozi said on Sunday that the EFF had not incited violence but also did not condemn its members’ action. When asked if the protest had anything to do with the ANC’s national leadership conference in East London, Ndlozi said he would not dignify the question with a response.

Political analyst Daniel Silke said the protests on Saturday could be seen to be more about deflecting attention from the ANC. The EFF had previously taken a strong line against companies, notably Absa, but was now facing some headwinds in its criticism of the ANC after the election of Ramaphosa.

"The EFF are once again battling to find a constant narrative for themselves, other than the issue of land reform, and are in a constant battle for headlines.

"The election of Ramaphosa does provide all opposition parties with something of a challenge," said Silke.

Analyst Ralph Mathekga said the EFF had always pursued such protests "as the politics of distraction. These protests are most effective when the ANC has no legitimacy to say stop."

However, this is not the first time H&M has been on the receiving end of the public's ire.

In 2015 when the company launched its stores in SA it was criticised for a lack of black models in its promotional campaign. The company added fuel to fire in its response to the criticism when it said its marketing plan was one which intended to convey a "positive image". Critics took this to imply that black models were not in line with this image. The group did apologise after the backlash stating that its campaign included all ethnic groups.

H&M did not respond to numerous requests for comment on Sunday, but it did reiterate its apology on Twitter.