In one incident, at its Mall of Africa franchise store in Johannesburg, women were assaulted and goods stolen, the company said in an email. Supporters of the opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters are believed to be responsible.
EFF members and supporters are accused of carrying out the attack in protest of an image of their leaders at an event hosted by the wireless carrier. The EFF may have been responding to an image used by Corruption Watch Chairman Mavuso Msimang, Vodacom said, in which he depicted an image of the party’s leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, as “abusers of democracy” during a keynote address at an awards ceremony.
“Vodacom respects the right of every South African to freedom of expression and to hold legal and peaceful protests, but condemns any form of violent behavior,” the mobile-phone operator said in emailed comments on Monday. “Vodacom is against discrimination and bigotry in all their manifestations.”
The EFF denies any organized involvement in the incidents.
“There has been no official mandate, request or statement from the EFF to go to Vodacom shops and protest,” said Jossey Buthane, EFF Secretary in the Limpopo province. “This is being done independently by unhappy South Africans. We do understand that the Vodacom stores are owned by individual franchisees, and would therefore look for alternative recourse in this matter.”
Images on Twitter showed people dressed in the EFF’s signature red berets and clothing entering stores or the damage caused in the aftermath of their leaving. The EFF is known for being involved in scuffles in parliament with the ruling African National Congress and other opposition parties.