Gauteng police are on high alert following several incidents during protests at H&M shops around the province on Saturday, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said.
"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 Economic Freedom Fighters protests.
Peeping through the sealed off glass windows, one could see heaps of clothing scattered on the shop floor in the trashed business premises. The H&M signage outside the shop had been broken and red fragments were still on the floor.
General manager of the Menlyn Park shopping centre Olive Ndebele confirmed the skirmishes.
“Menlyn Park shopping centre management confirms protest action at our H&M store, today 13 January 2018,” said Ndebele in a statement.
"The safety and security of our customers, staff, and tenants is of utmost importance and the affected area has been secured by the South African Police Service (SAPS).”
Ndebele said “normal trading” had resumed in the mall.
On the other side of Pretoria, police officers were on standby at the Kolonnade Mall, as the EFF protests targeted different shopping centres.
A police officer who declined to be identified in the press said members of the SAPS crowd control public order police unit had been summoned to the Kolonnade Mall, but there was no sign of the EFF members.
“We’re not going to leave. We are going to be here, but the security has told us everything is fine,” he said.
Some Twitter users alleged that the EFF had already caused chaos at the Kolonnade Mall. Reports indicated that the H&M shop at Sandton City in Johannesburg had been trashed on Saturday.
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.
Thousands of customers called for a global boycott. The skirmishes on Saturday are part of the EFF’s protests against the retail giant.
African News Agency/ANA