South African political organizations on Monday condemned violence in ongoing anti-racism protests across the country.
This came after supporters of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) shut down pharmaceutical retailer Click stores following their racist advert allegedly denigrating black people’s hair and perpetuating white supremacy.
In some cities, the protests turned violent, with Clicks stores burned and firebombed.
The destruction of stores will only mean that South Africans who have already been left vulnerable due to the COVID-19 lockdown will be put under further financial strain should they lose their jobs if these shops have to be closed permanently, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said.
The DA “strongly condemns the EFF’s incitement of violence and the resultant malicious destruction of property with regards to Clicks stores countrywide and calls on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to take immediate action,” DA’s Shadow Minister of Police Andrew Whitfield said.
He said the DA will lay charges of incitement to violence and destruction of property against the EFF and more especially it’s leadership.
Whitfield accused EFF leader Julius Malema of making explicit statements inciting EFF members to commit criminal acts in the protests over the online advert which compared the hair of black women to that of white women.
The comparison is accompanied by the caption saying black women’s hair is dry and damaged while white women’s hair is flat and normal.
The advert prompted the EFF to launch a nationwide campaign to shut down Clicks stores across the country.
The EFF said the racially insensitive advert undermined the dignity of black South Africans and suggested that the “hair of black people is damaged and inferior to that of white people.”
Also on Monday, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) joined the chorus of condemnation against the violence accompanying the protests.
“While we support the campaign to discipline white capital and eradicate systemic racism that continues to treat black people as second-class citizens in their own country, we condemn the violence and thuggery that has seen some stores firebombed,” said COSATU, the country’s largest trade federation.
Burning down stores is pure criminality that will punish the workers, said COSATU national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.
“Despite our strong opposition to racism and our commitment to its eradication, COSATU will never support anarchy and lawlessness,” Pamla said.
This reckless criminal behaviour can only serve to propagate social ferment and further economic dislocation, he added.
Clicks has apologized for the advert, calling it a mistake. As of April 2020, Clicks has 881 total retail stores across the country, employing 15,347 people, according to data provided by the group.