H&M shuts Durban store ahead of planned EFF protest
Beleaguered fashion retailer H&M has been forced to close its doors and evacuate shoppers at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Durban amid a planned protest by EFF supporters on Tuesday morning.
A public announcement was made in-store for customers to leave immediately for safety reasons.
A notice placed at the entrance of H&M stated: "This store is temporarily closed. Apologies for any inconvenience caused."
A contingent of police and mall security had been posted outside the store since early Tuesday morning in a bid to prevent a repeat of looting incidents seen at branches in Gauteng in recent days, where windows were broken and clothing items allegedly stolen.
Mall staff said the heavy police presence was a precaution - although there were no visible signs of EFF supporters.
The protests come in the wake of an advertisement by the international clothing company showing a black child in a green hoodie with the words "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" inscribed on it, which caused worldwide outrage on social media and other platforms.
Police posted outside the store said about 14 protesters, in EFF regalia, were prevented from entering the mall by security.
"They were shown to the nearest taxi rank. We are monitoring the situation," said the police officer.
Stores neighbouring H&M have also shut their doors and said they were taking no chances.
"I have closed up because we don't want any looting. We've seen what happened in Gauteng," one store manager said.
Police outside the mall tried to convince the EFF members to leave - this while protesters chanted and danced and waited to gain entry.
EFF regional co-ordinator Lwanele Tshwane said the protest was peaceful, but the message was clear: "We don't tolerate racism. H&M is no longer welcome in South Africa."
He said the EFF was calling for the international clothing store to leave the country.
"This is a peaceful protest but we are here to relay our message."
One EFF member was seen brandishing a baton.