Numerous products were stolen when some EFF supporters vandalized Vodacom franchise stores this week, the telecommunications giant has confirmed.
“We have not accounted for the damage yet, but we can confirm that a number of stores were extensively damaged and numerous products were stolen too,” said a Vodacom spokesperson.
“Vodacom stores are owned by franchisees and they have individually laid charges at the SAPS (South African Police Service). We condemn any violent behaviour and will continue to do so. Rest assured, we remain fully committed to cooperating with investigations led by government law enforcement agencies.”
In two days of violence, Vodacom stores in at least three provinces were trashed and looted after the party took up cudgels for a speech made at the company’s Midrand, Johannesburg, headquarters last Friday night by Corruption Watch chairperson Mavuso Msimang.
He was the guest speaker at the annual Vodacom Journalist of the year awards. The company is a long-time sponsor of the country’s most prestigious set of awards that are national and cross-platform.
Msimang’s speech was a broad look at democratic practice and the party’s leaders took exception to a single slide where he put up a photograph of EFF leaders under the title “Abusers of democracy”.
Matter considered ‘closed’
After the weekend’s mayhem, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub and other executives headed to the EFF headquarters on Monday where the party and the company smoked a peace pipe and agreed to put an end to the saga.
In a joint statement, the company said: “In the meeting, the parties discussed the matter in detail and have resolved the issue. Vodacom acknowledged that it is politically neutral and it doesn’t influence party political positions in any way.
“Vodacom and the EFF appreciate that the matter could have been handled differently to avoid the misunderstanding that occurred. Vodacom and EFF encourage the right to freedom of speech and the free circulation of ideas.
“The parties also committed to engage on policy issues of mutual interest and consider the matter to be closed.”
It is not clear if Joosub and his team raised the violence and looting with the EFF leadership.
Sections of the party’s provincial leadership in areas where stores were targeted have denied that the actions were party-sanctioned.
The looters wore EFF regalia and the party’s deputy secretary general Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi threatened the company on social media, the party’s most influential channel to is membership.
Vodacom’s response has been criticized as meek.
Asked if it was so because of fears of danger to staff and customers, the company’s spokesperson said: “Our response was reflective of the meeting held. The safety of our staff and customers remains our top priority.”