Johannesburg – Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday condemned violent protests at Swedish retailer H&M’s South African shops over the weekend. The retailer closed all doors in South Africa until further notice as a result.
Gigaba said it is understandable there is a great deal of rage over H&M’s controversial advertisement, which showed a black child in a sweatshirt with the words ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’ printed on it. But he urged South Africans to engage H&M in a legal manner, within the framework provided by the Constitution.
A large group of Economic Freedom Fighters stormed H&M outlets in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town on Saturday, trashing the stores to protest against the online ad.
H&M has since apologised and removed the image as well as the sweater from retail. The sweater, however, was never sold in South Africa.
Gigaba was critical of the protests.
“Any South African can take legal action against H&M,” Gigaba said. Acting outside the legal framework is not justifiable, he added.
“It undermines South Africa’s investment profile, and undermines the country as whole. We are trying to attract investment into South Africa.”
He said people who commit crimes in the protests will be acted against. “We expect law enforcement to take action,” he said. “We must protect South Africa as an investment destination.”
H&M said that despite closing the shops in the interim, the company is still committed to South Africa. It would not comment on the extent or cost of the damage