Notice of outcome of a disciplinary hearing instituted against a member of the SAGMJ
As per section 18.7 of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Constitution, the Committee hereby provides notice to its membership on the outcome of a disciplinary hearing instituted against a member of the SAGMJ, Mr. Thegandra Naidoo.
- The SAGMJ received a complaint from Mr. Peter Piegl on 14 February 2014, following a comment made by Mr. Thegandra Naidoo on his Facebook page subsequent to the fatal shooting of a motorcyclist on the same date, in which he argues that Mr. Naidoo has brought the Guild into disrepute as his comment is contrary to the Guild’s endorsement of road safety and responsible road usage.
- In accordance with the SAGMJ Constitution, the complaint was presented to the SAGMJ Committee at a meeting held on 19 February 2014 to determine whether there was a valid complaint that warranted a hearing to determine whether the defendant’s actions brought the Guild into disrepute. The Committee decided that there was a case to be answered, and the defendant was informed of said decision and hearing. In light of the extraordinary response to Mr. Naidoo’s comment, the Committee also decided to temporarily suspend Mr. Naidoo’s membership to the SAGMJ pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.
- The disciplinary hearing, attended by Christo Valentyn, Bernard Hellberg Jr, Aurelia Mbokazi, Eugene Herbert and Liana Reiners, took place on 21 February 2014, where Mr. Naidoo made a detailed submission arguing
- that the comment was made under provocation,
- that the comment was unrelated to the unfortunate incident on 14 February,
- that the comment was not aimed at the entire motorcycling community but at Mr. Piegl only, and
- that it was done in his private and personal capacity and not as a motoring journalist because his occupation and membership status was not known at the time of making the comment.
- Mr. Naidoo also reiterated his regret about making the comment and confirmed the apology he had already issued to the public on a number of forums.
- The disciplinary committee convened a second meeting on 26 February 2014 to discuss and debate Mr. Naidoo’s submission and concluded:
- Mr. Naidoo did not make the comment under provocation as it was the first of his comments to appear on Mr. Piegl’s Facebook wall;
- While Mr. Naidoo may have made the comment in anger, the threat of violence against motorcyclists in general is particularly upsetting and completely unacceptable;
- While Mr. Naidoo may not have been identified as a motoring journalist or a member of the SAGMJ at the time of making the comment, it doesn’t change the fact that he was ultimately identified as both. This forced the SAGMJ to be accountable for his actions in public and, by association, has had a negative impact on how the SAGMJ is perceived by fellow members, the SAGMJ’s sponsors and stakeholders, the motoring industry in the greater sense, as well as the general public. It has forced the Guild to publicly distance itself from the comment and to defend its reputation for endorsing responsible road usage and road safety in general;
- Mr. Naidoo’s direct actions and utterances did not meet the high standard of professional conduct or the acceptable standard of general behaviour that is expected of a Guild member (as per clause 17.1 and 17.2 of the SAGMJ constitution), and that his direct action and utterances have subsequently brought the Guild into disrepute. The Committee also found that, as this comment was not made while engaged in the profession of motoring journalism, the freedom of expression that is explicitly acknowledged in clause 17.3 is not applicable.
- The disciplinary committee recommended that the defendant be expelled from the SAGMJ, and notice was served to the defendant on 4 March 2014.
- As per section 18.5 of the Constitution, the defendant was granted 14 days leave to appeal the decision, which would only be heard if the member concerned is able to introduce new and relevant information to the disciplinary process. The defendant chose not to submit an appeal within this period, and the proposed sanction – expulsion from the SAGMJ – came into immediate effect on 19 March 2014.
The Committee of the SAGMJ now views this entire matter as procedurally closed.
The SAGMJ is a professional body representing the interests of its members and the advancement of motoring journalism in South Africa. It strives to raise standards across the board and work with the various PR departments and other stakeholders in order to do so.
The Guild expects all its members to respect its code of conduct and to maintain a level of professionalism that ensures that neither their personal nor that of their publication’s reputation is brought into disrepute. It asks all members to work with the entire Guild membership in order to advance the Guild and its objectives to raise standards and the organisation’s profile with respect to the wider industry and the general public.
Chairman: SA Guild of Motoring Journalists
Bernard Hellberg Jr.
Vice Chairman: SA Guild of Motoring Journalists