Bernard Hellberg Sr. Picture: Bernard Hellberg via Facebook

Johannesburg - A storm has broken over the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists over alleged racist comments made by one of its senior members on social media and a perceived lack of response to a complaint lodged with the Guild about them.

An article in the Sunday Times on 15 April quoted former motoring journalist Thegandra Naidoo - who was fired from his job some years ago for a social media post in which he said he wanted to knock down motorcycle riders - as saying he’d lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission about social media posts by veteran motoring journalist Bernard Hellberg Sr, a contributor to Driven and the SA Express Airways’ Indwe inflight magazine.

Naidoo compiled a dossier to support his complaint to the SAHRC, in which Hellberg compares blacks to gorillas. In a comment to an article in the Mail and Guardian posted on Facebook in 2017, he said of the Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association: “The tricky part will be to get the bush out of these dancing bunnies”.

His comment on a 2016 Politicsweb article read: “Thank you for the vulgar, typically African 70 IQ response. I would have not expected anything less from a follower of the Thief in Chief,” and another comment about Indians read: “Those fellas probably worship rats as reincarnated relatives. Adds new meaning to the term rat race”.

'Cover-up'

Naidoo said he’d lodged a complaint about these posts late in 2017 with the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists late in 2017, but had received no response. According to Naidoo, this was because the chairman of the Guild, Bernard Hellberg Jr, is Hellberg’s son and also his employer. Alleging a cover-up, Naidoo then approached the Human Rights Commission.

In reply the Guild issued a statement on Tuesday saying it had a four-member disciplinary committee to meet to deal with the matter and recommend further steps. The outcome of the disciplinary process would be communicated as soon as it has been finalised, it said, asking for space for the committee to do its work and finalise the issue.

Sources: Sunday Times and in4ride