Racist WhatsApp is fake: Lindsay Saker VW pursues criminal charge

31 May 2019 - 13:00
Social media outrage over a purported racist exchange is all for nought, with the conversation being confirmed as fake.
Image: 123rf.com/Dzmitry Kliapitski Social media outrage over a purported racist exchange is all for nought, with the conversation being confirmed as fake.

The Lindsay Saker Group has cleared one of its staff members of racism after a screenshot of WhatsApp messages purportedly sent by him - in which various racist comments were made - went viral.

In one of the messages, which Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi posted on his Twitter timeline, the man, named as Shalen Singh, 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."

Lesufi weighed in on the matter and 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.

However, Denton Thiele, managing director at Lindsay Saker VW & Audi, said the messages were fabricated and that Singh, who is a dealer principal at the Kempton Park branch, did not write them.

He said staff at the branch had received screenshots of WhatsApp messages from a number they did not recognise on Sunday.

"We immediately took action and 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. 

Singh took a polygraph test, which cleared him of racism and having uttered racial slurs, Thiele said. 

"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."

The company, Thiele said, has opened cases of cyber-bullying 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 and assist.

"We concluded that he was innocent," Thiele said. "The message appears to have been fabricated in an attempt to victimise Mr Singh."

Asked how Singh was doing, Thiele said: "He is fearful".

Singh has been placed on leave.

With the messages going viral, Singh's personal number was made public. He has since received threatening messages and calls. The Kempton Park branch has also been getting calls from people threatening to make the dealership non-operational.

Thiele said the company has been in contact with Lesufi, who had commended the company for its "swift" action after he posted the messages.

Lesufi responded with this comment: "Thank you so much @LindsaySaker_VW for the swift action. You’ve demonstrated leadership." He has not yet taken down the post.

"We want the individual and Lindsay Saker name cleared on any racial slurs. We don’t need this in our country and for someone to do this, is very concerning. It saddens us that a member of the community can be held to ransom and threatened as a result of falsified information in the public domain," Thiele said.