The scenes were jarring.
H&M stores were trashed, mannequins dismantled, mirrors broken and clothes left strewn across the floors of several stores around Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape on Saturday.
The backlash, unleashed by EFF leader Julius Malema and his army of “fighters”, was in protest over the Swedish retailer’s use of a black boy modelling a hooded jumper that read: “Coolest monkey in the jungle”.
— Morutse Manamela?? (@ManamelaKmm) January 13, 2018
The advert, which the retailer expressed regret over and that has since been removed, caused outrage across the globe with local and international celebrities calling for a boycott of the retailer and for people to destroy clothes they had purchased from H&M.
The damage metered out by angry protesters forced most stores to close their doors – some for the remainder of the weekend.
While the EFF certainly commanded attention over the weekend, political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni believes that the EFF’s violent approach to responding to the matter has somewhat taken away from the seriousness of the issue behind its protest.
“The most unfortunate thing is that their approach has taken our eyes away from a very serious racist incident that we should all condemn with all the power that our grammar and vocabulary can manage,” he told DESTINY.
“But at the same time, we should accept that EFF has a new brand of opposition politics which has a para-military element to it. Their opposition – whether it’s trying to take land in the urban areas by force, trying to force the president to pay back the money, trying to force their way – you can almost tell that the stretch from a youthful youth league was translated into the EFF and the youthful way of doing things as well as the revolutionary romantic approach to that time when they were still military struggles, is not too far from their brazen approach. Their psychology is that way. The bounds between what is lawful and unlawful and what is peaceful and violent has become very thin in trying to understand their politics.”
Some pundits have decried the EFF’s actions saying the fighters’ behaviour was feeding into the stereotypes of barbarianism in which a school of society cast black people and monkeys in the same WhatsApp group.
So instead of fighting at their level you’re just going to vandalize stores and establishments? Spread violence and fear? Oh, ok.
Just misrepresent us all as savages then. https://t.co/ocRq309Cqx
— PEARL THUSI (@PearlThusi) January 13, 2018
Actress Pearl Thusi took exception to a comment by EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi who said the protest action taken against H&M was just the beginning of many more to come.
READ MORE: South Africans can’t get enough of H&M
“Every single racist institution will be visited by the red brigade to ensure there are consequences to any denigration of the black race! EFF protest against H&M is not the last one,” Ndlozi tweeted.
In response she tweeted: “So instead of fighting at their level you’re just going to vandalise stores and establishments. [SIC] Spread violence and fear? Oh, OK. Just misrepresent us all as savages then.”
Fikeni says the EFF’s message could have been delivered in a more effective manner and in a way that would have commanded a bigger punch.
“Picketing at the doors and calling for a consumer boycott would be more sustained, longer and would draw more attention than a seven-minute rampage through a shop. It’s more dramatic and makes for good pictures for social media, but politically and substantively I think a different approach would do.”