EFF protests helped change H&M operations - Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Johannesburg - It's thanks to the Economic Freedom Fighters' protest that international clothing retailer H&M has promised an overhaul of its marketing divisions, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation director Neeshan Balton said. 

"We don't claim credit for H&M moving to the point that they want to engage and change. It's the general outrage from across the globe, it's the actions of the EFF and it's the actions from ourselves and other anti-racism foundations."

After a large group of EFF supporters stormed H&M stores across the country, Balton said the Swedish company met with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation as well as the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on several occasions in an effort to understand where it can improve.

Read: H&M anti-racism workshop planned to ‘develop a deeper understanding’ on issues surrounding hoodie furore

"We will now go to their head office, where we will talk to a good few thousand of their staff and in June, we would be addressing their board of directors and that would complete the chain and communication.

"Hopefully they will also now be engaging with anti-racism organisations in Europe and across America to have similar kinds of discussions."

Balton added that the foundation was happy that H&M was willing to look at policies and systems.

South African H&M branches were forced to close when EFF supporters stormed and trashed stores in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town in January.

They were protesting against an advert that showed a black child in a sweatshirt, with the words "coolest monkey in the jungle" printed on it. Police used rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

The EFF's actions propelled H&M to act more decisively on its role in the matter, Balton said. 

Also read: H&M has shown racial insensitivity before - Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

"The EFF helped immensely. Before the protest by the EFF, we already wrote to the company and received a response. The response was bland, it had no substance to it."

Balton added that the foundation had intended to have its own protest.

"We didn't plan it on the scale that the EFF did and we didn't plan [on] going into the stores and ripping down railings. I don't think the EFF had planned that themselves. I think they had similar intentions of demonstrating outside the stores... That got huge global coverage and because it's a global chain store, they had to respond."

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