The EFF opposition party leader, Julius Malema, holds a press conference on October 16, 2018, in Johannesburg. Image: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP
The EFF opposition party leader, Julius Malema, holds a press conference on October 16, 2018, in Johannesburg. Image: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

Vodacom is keeping some of its SA franchise stores shut after EFF members allegedly vandalised outlets in protest of an image of their leaders used at an awards ceremony hosted by the cellphone operator.

In one incident, at its Mall of Africa franchise store in Johannesburg, women were assaulted and goods stolen, the company said in an e-mail.

The EFF may have been responding to an image used by Corruption Watch chair Mavuso Msimang, Vodacom said, in which he depicted the party’s leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, as “abusers of democracy” during a keynote address at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards ceremony.

“Vodacom respects the right of every South African to freedom of expression and to hold legal and peaceful protests, but condemns any form of violent behaviour,” Vodacom said in e-mailed comments on Monday.

“Vodacom is against discrimination and bigotry in all their manifestations.”

Images on Twitter showed people dressed in the EFF’s signature red berets and clothing entering stores and the damage caused in the aftermath of their leaving.

“There has been no official mandate, request or statement from the EFF to go to Vodacom shops and protest,” said Jossey Buthane, EFF secretary in Limpopo.

“This is being done independently by unhappy South Africans. We do understand that the Vodacom stores are owned by individual franchisees, and would therefore look for alternative recourse in this matter.”

Bloomberg