Johannesburg - Social media users have lashed out at Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi for “spreading lies” and sharing what is purported to be a fake WhatsApp message with his 175000 Twitter followers.
On Friday, Lesufi posted a WhatsApp thread from a man named Shanel Singh, who allegedly wrote: “My stupid k****r staff are a bunch of monkeys. I’m tired of trying to get things in order and these black k****rs keep f***ing up so much.”
Singh is an employee of Lindsay Saker in Kempton Park.
Lesufi also gave the company a deadline by which to respond.
“Do you see why I hate racists with a passion! @LindsaySaker_VW Kempton Park, you have a deadline to meet of 06 June at 06:00. The clock is ticking,” Lesufi wrote.
Late on Friday, the company responded in a statement claiming that Singh had been framed and did not write the messages.
Denton Thiele, managing director at Lindsay Saker VW and Audi, said staff had received the screenshots of messages from an unknown number on Sunday.
“We immediately took action in collaboration with all the staff members and launched an investigation into this matter. The Lindsay Saker Group does not take issues such as these lightly,” Thiele said.
He said Singh had taken a polygraph test which cleared him of racism and having uttered racial slurs.
“Mr Singh denied having sent the messages from the outset and maintained this position during our engagement with our staff in the branch.
“The company, in collaboration with the SAPS, ultimately found that Singh had not sent the message. The investigation involved, among others, a forensic analysis of Singh’s phone as well as a polygraph.”
He said the company had opened cases of cyberbullying and defamation of character.
“A case has been opened against the person that falsified these messages and we will now do our utmost to prosecute the perpetrator/s. We appeal to anyone that could assist in identifying the perpetrators to please come forward,” Thiele said.
“The message appears to have been fabricated in an attempt to victimise Mr Singh.”
Social media users took to Twitter on Friday to slam the Gauteng MEC for Education for his negligence and urged him to apologise to Singh.
User @X_review tweeted: “How about an apology to the innocent man and rather demanding swift action against those responsible for framing a message.”
Another user, @mathapelo_pule, said: “If this is not true, then he must take legal action. False accusation is as bad as the original crime.”
But while Lindsay Saker has cleared Singh of any wrongdoing, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has asked the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to review the case.
“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,” said the foundation’s executive director, Neeshan Balton.
“We have, over the last few years, had a series of incidents in which the K-word was used, or where African people have been dehumanised and referred to as ‘monkeys’.”
The foundation said it hoped that the perpetrator behind the messages was brought to book.
“We hope that a stringent sanction is imposed on them by the relevant authorities.”
Balton added that the foundation had contacted Lindsay Saker to find out what steps it 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.”
Based on the seriousness of the matter, the foundation has referred the case to the SAHRC.
“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.”