After a Clicks advert went viral, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) threatened to shut down Clicks stores across the country.
And now, chaos has broken out at several Clicks stores across the country since Monday, as the EFF lived up to their promise of causing disruption unless their demands are met by the retailing giant.
EFF leader, Julius Malema, called on all EFF members of the political party, and were mobilized to protest at Clicks locations. The locations included the V&A Waterfront in the Western Cape, Mall of the North in Polokwane, Mall of Africa in Midrand, Menlyn Mall in Tshwane, Highveld Mall in Emalahleni, Goodwood Shopping Centre in Cape Town, Cycad Shopping Centre in Polokwane, Sandton City in Sandton.
Although the Clicks store in Witbank was petrol bombed on Monday, Julius Malema stated that the party did not make use of petrol bombs. "We wrote a letter to Clicks asking them peacefully not to open and they refused. We are here to teach them a lesson. We are no longer going to accept any apology which is not accompanied by justice. We need justice, not an apology," Malema said during an impromptu address at a Polokwane Clicks.
According to the EFF's Twitter feed, all members were told to prepare for another day of mobilisation on Tuesday, as the party is determined to continue protesting at Clicks stores until it "learns its lesson".
A range of damage to several Clicks properties have been done. The damage at a Witbank store in Mpumalanga in the early hours of the morning was inflicted by a petrol bomb, and an Alberton branch in Gauteng was set alight. EFF supporters has also gained access to a Clicks store in Queenstown, and hurled products from shelves across the room, leaving the store in utter disarray.
CIC @Julius_S_Malema has been to all Clicks outlets in Polokwane.— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) September 7, 2020
The EFF will ensure no Clicks store operates for the next five days unless our demands are met. #clicksmustfall pic.twitter.com/EjcAp8f4VW
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, stated that the incident that took place in Witbank has not been affirmatively linked to the EFF protest. "Some men came to the store and lit a petrol bomb and threw it at the storefront at around 01:00 on Monday morning. The glass was cracked and a fire broke out, but security guards who were on duty were able to put out the fire. There was no damage to the store itself, only the cracked glass and minor fire damage. We don’t know at this stage whether or not they are affiliated with any groups that are protesting today, the investigation is ongoing," he stated.
No arrests have yet been made.
Retailers have been trying to stop the protest by obtaining an interdict against the EFF, which they unfortunately lost the first time.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi tweeted on Monday that the incident may have been part of an elaborate scheme by Clicks to attain a more favourable ruling.
Clicks Witbank petrol bombed. pic.twitter.com/XF07POyMET— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) September 7, 2020
"Perhaps Clicks petrol-bombed itself in an attempt to influence the court ahead of its urgent application," he mentioned and added that EFF protests had been "peaceful".
"The EFF protests, led by its leadership from the front, have been peaceful forms of direct action. There must be consequences to racism!"
The EFF's deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, stated that the retailer could expect some "collateral damage", and added "They are unfortunately going to suffer collateral damage, but the fact of the matter is that we are not going to allow this and we are going to fight people with whatever thing possible."
445 Clicks stores closed as EFF vows to continue protests.
According to a Clicks spokesperson, protest action was reported at at least 452 stores. Protesters have been guarding the doors to force the doors to stay close seeing that some Clicks stores urges to continue business.
Clicks Queestown pic.twitter.com/v6tueCtsC7— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) September 7, 2020
"Clicks strongly condemns violence of any kind, intimidation of staff and its customers and the vandalism of its stores. All incidents of criminal behaviour are being reported to the authorities. Clicks is working with SAPS to ensure the safety of staff, customers and members of the public," the spokesperson said.
He added that; "Clicks is unable to estimate the total damage to stores given the ongoing protest action. Clicks provides a much-needed healthcare service to South Africans and will continue to trade. Clicks has taken full accountability and apologised unreservedly for the advertisement published on its website and is committed to effecting real change across the business. Clicks continues to monitor the situation."
Vikesh Ramsunder, Clicks Group CEO, issued an open letter calling for engagement from consumers on the matter, and stated; “The emotive responses of our customers have been mirrored by our employees and management teams. And, whilst the images and content were provided to us by our supplier TRESemmé , this does not absolve us from blame. This is why we took accountability for this error of judgement by issuing a public apology and swiftly removing the offensive material from our website.”
The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry strongly condemned the vandalisation of property and acts of intimidation and stated that
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, Palesa Phili stated that the "Property has been damaged, staff lives have been put at risk and, no doubt, financial losses have been incurred as a result of the violence. Most importantly, patients who depend on Clicks to fill their medication prescriptions have also been compromised at the affected sites."
The effect of such actions are not only negative for the company but for the South African economy as a whole.
Will the EFF face justice for their actions and vandalizing ?