Gauteng police on Tuesday said they had arrested five people in connection with the destruction of a Clicks outlet at the Lemon Tree shopping centre in Alberton.
The arrests happened on Monday, hours after EFF supporters descended on numerous Click shops all over the country, demanding they shut down.
“It is reported that the employees had locked themselves inside the store after receiving a warning of the planned EFF protest against Clicks stores, and that a group of people clad in EFF regalia were coming for this particular store,” said Brig Mathapelo Peters.
“On arrival of the latter group at the store and finding the doors locked, the suspects allegedly smashed and broke down the windows and the door, forcing entry into the store where they caused further damage, including a fire that was swiftly contained. The exact cause of the fire is yet to be confirmed,” she added.
A case of malicious damage to property was opened.
A police investigation led to the arrest of five people aged between 21 and 40.
“Their court appearance is yet to be determined,” Peters said.
In Bryanston, north of Johannesburg, another Clicks store was damaged on Monday, allegedly by protesters.
Peters said the group had stormed into the store, kicked down shelves and destroyed some of the store’s property.
“No injuries were reported in both incidents,” Peters said.
Almost 40 Clicks stores were affected by protest action carried out by the EFF on Monday.
Action against the beauty and health retailer came after it ran an advert on its website last week which was deemed demeaning to black hair. The advert showed an image of African hair, which was labelled as dry and damaged. It led to a social outcry.
The EFF, which has since labelled the advert as “racist”, has vowed to shut all Clicks stores throughout the week.
Though Clicks has since removed the advert, issued an apology and explained that it was not its own ad, but that of its client, TRESemme, which falls under Unilever, the EFF is demanding that Clicks cut ties with Unilever and fire those behind the advert.
Clicks said in a statement on Monday that protest action by the EFF had taken place at 425 of its stores in SA. “At last count 51 stores have closed in the Western Cape, 92 in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, and 302 in Gauteng and elsewhere.”
The retailer strongly condemned “violence of any kind, intimidation of staff and its customers and the vandalism of its stores”, cautioning that all incidents of criminal behaviour are being reported to the authorities.
It reiterated: “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.”
Peters said Gauteng police would remain on high alert throughout the week.
The province’s police commissioner, Lt-Gen Elias Mawela, has warned those taking part in the strike action that police will act against any criminal activity, including those who destroy property and incite violence.