Police fired rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators who ransacked several of the Swedish fashion group’s stores in the Gauteng province, where South Africa’s economic hub of Johannesburg is located.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) protesters targeted six H&M stores, tearing down shop displays and throwing clothes around, police said.
Footage uploaded to social media shows protesters throwing clothing racks to the floor and kicking mannequins.
It comes after H&M issued an apology earlier this week for a controversial ad featuring a young boy wearing a green sweatshirt with the slogan: “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”
Many referenced the fact that “monkey” is often used as a racial slur, with one person writing “for black people, the term is loaded”.
H&M has since taken down the advert and apologised.
But Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, spokesman for the ultra-left EFF, said that was too little, too late.
“The time of apologies for racism are over; there must be consequences to anti-black racism, period!” Ndlozi wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of a vandalised H&M store and video footage of chanting EFF supporters.
H&M South Africa did not respond to a request for comment, but its local website carried an apology for the advertisement, Reuters reports.
“Our position is simple, we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry,” the apology read.
Police said they were monitoring the protests, but that they had made no arrests so far.
Protests over perceived corporate wrongdoing have a history of turning violent in South Africa, where some drivers for ride-hailing service Uber have had their vehicles torched over the past year by regular taxi operators.