File image : REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Johannesburg – Netcare and Netcare 911 have investigated and cleared an employee over racist posts on his Facebook page, which the alleged culprit says was hacked.

"Netcare confirms that both Netcare and Netcare 911 have been made aware that an employee of Netcare 911 is alleged to have posted racist content on his personal Facebook account," the healthcare entities said in a joint statement late on Tuesday.

Although the employee was placed on special leave, Netcare 911 said its initial investigations point to probable hacking of staff member’s Facebook page and creation of fraudulent post to publicly discredit him.

Craig Grindell, managing director of Netcare 911, said the offensive post was brought to management’s attention on Monday.

"The Facebook post contains absolutely deplorable and inexcusable racist comments and it does give the impression that it had been posted by the individual on his personal Facebook page," said Grindell.

“We immediately launched an internal investigation at the time of the original incident, and notwithstanding the fact that he had brought the matter to our attention, the individual was placed on special leave whilst the company conducted its investigation."

Grindell said despite efforts to communicate directly with Facebook, the profile that originally posted the racist content could not be validated by Facebook.

However, this profile was subsequently removed by Facebook. “Our investigation, however, indicated that it was likely that the individual’s Facebook account had been hacked into in order to post the absolutely inexcusable comments with the intention of causing him reputational damage,” said Grindell.

“Based on the inability to validate the source of the post, a thorough analysis by a third party of the individual’s personal Facebook activity on his electronic equipment over the period concerned, and an affidavit submitted by the individual stating that he had no knowledge of who had potentially posted the post, the case was closed.”

Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of the Netcare Group, said: “We have a zero tolerance stance towards discrimination of any kind and we will not hesitate to take the strongest possible action when made aware of actions and or behaviour of any staff member who transgresses the company’s values, strict ethics and code of conduct, especially in cases involving racial discrimination”.

Friedland added: “We are indeed proud of our commitment to and the external recognition of our efforts towards transformation in Netcare. In 2016, we formally introduced a specific 7th 'Netcare behaviour' which states that ‘We embrace diversity to show that we are not racist’”.

Dr Friedland says the company’s stance is evidenced by the fact that earlier this year, after becoming aware of a racist post placed on Facebook by a staff member she was, after an investigation found her to be guilty, summarily dismissed.