Picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has asked the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to review a case involving racism, allegedly attributed to a Lindsay Saker service manager. 

Screenshots of WhatsApp messages emerged recently on social media, where a person, allegedly presented as being a service manager at the company’s Kempton Park branch, apparently made a series of racist remarks, foundation executive director Neeshan Balton said in a statement.

The person behind the messages referred to staff at the company using the k-word and “monkeys”. The discussion continued with the person stating that African people “belong in the jungle along with EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] members and Julius Malema [EFF leader] where the wild animals can kill them all”.

“Screenshots of these messages were brought to our attention. While we may not have clarity as to who is behind the messages as yet, we must condemn the racist terminology used in the discussion. Racist vitriol of this nature has no place in our society," Balton said.

Over the past few years there had been "a series of incidents" in which the k-word was used, or where African people had been dehumanised and referred to as "monkeys", and the foundation had previously condemned similar racial sentiments expressed, he said.

"We hope that the perpetrator behind the messages is brought to book, and that stringent sanction is imposed on them by the relevant authorities. The messages clearly express extreme hatred, and do nothing but attempt to sow racial discord. 

“As with other cases of this nature, we had contacted the company to find out what steps they had taken. Lindsay Saker indicated that the service manager in question undertook a polygraph test and his phone underwent forensic analysis. Their investigations concluded that the individual did not send the racist messages, and that it was fabricated. The company has also opened a case with the police to ascertain who was behind the malicious messages,” Balton said.

Based on the seriousness of the matter, the foundation had referred it to the SAHRC for further consideration, and had also asked the company to take the results of their investigation before the SAHRC to test the veracity of the case and pronounce on the matter.

“If the SAHRC evaluates and pronounces on the matter, it would serve to reassure the public that an independent and external institution, who regularly deals with issues of racism, has either cleared the individual’s name, or concluded otherwise. Having the SAHRC probe the matter may also act as a deterrent to others in future, who may seek to get away with using an issue as sensitive as racism, possibly under the pretense of being someone else, to stir up further tension and division in a society that can ill-afford it," Balton said.

African News Agency/ANA