The Democratic Alliance has entered the H&M fracas over what has been condemned as racist advertising. The opposition party said that it will write to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to lodge an official complaint against the UK-based retail giant.

The party said that it will also write to H&M South Africa to express “our deep concern” over the “tasteless advert which evokes painful sentiments” among black South Africans as well as the black community abroad.

H&M were at the receiving end of their UK advertising campaign in which a young black boy was pictured wearing a hoody with the words “I am the coolest monkey in the jungle”, causing anger among many quarters, labelling it racist. Apparently, the boy’s mother tweeted that people should “get over it” and it was not racist. She said that her child was part of many advertising campaigns for the brand. 

The fracas led to strong condemnation of H&M in the UK with some celebrities and athletes cancelling their association with the company.

In Gauteng, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) trashed H&M stores at various malls in the province, while a planned protest in KwaZulu-Natal at the Gateway store on Sunday (14 January) did not go ahead. The protest was re-scheduled for Tuesday (16 January) getting off to a slow start. The protest was schedule to start at 9.30am, but members of the radical party were still making their way to the mall by midday, amid a strong police presence.

The DA has also condemned the EFF for their action, saying that they “strongly condemn” the destruction of property and vandalism, and that was no way to fight racism. “While we fully agree that racism is oppressive and has no place in a democratic South Africa, inciting violence and acts of destruction to property must be equally condemned,” said the party in a statement.

“The EFF must be held accountable for all the damages incurred as a result of this deplorable vandalism and EFF leader, Julius Malema, must pay back the money for all damages incurred and compensate the employees who had to put in more hours clearing the mess. Trashing of stores cannot be condoned as it does not begin to topple the real elephant in the room – racism,” said the party.

However, The DA said that they believed that H&M’s racist advert was in violation of the ICC’s marketing guidelines, citing Article 4: “General provisions on advertising and marketing communication practice” of the ICC’s Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice, members should at all times “respect human dignity and should not incite or condone any form of discrimination, including that based upon race…”, in their marketing communication.

“It is clear that H&M have violated the ICC’s code of advertising with their racially-discriminatory advert. We therefore request that the ICC, as the foremost retail authority, fully investigate this incident and institute appropriate sanctions once an investigation has been completed,” the DA said in a statement. H&M SA now has an obligation to register these concerns with their monitoring body as the fight against institutional racism is a fight we must all take on,” said the statement.

While the DA was engaging in correspondence as opposed to the EFF’s strong protests, the party said that it called on the EFF leadership to find more “constructive and appropriate means” to fight the scourge of racism that is still very present in society. “The DA also urges others in the corporate sector to be more socially-responsible and promote racial, cultural and ideological diversity,” said the party.