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Bell Pottinger said to have breached code on Guptas, but DA says decision only due today

Aug 24 2017 12:52
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – A UK body has reportedly found that Bell Pottinger did breach the code of conduct of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) with its work for the Guptas in South Africa, a report has claimed.

“PRWeek can confirm that the PRCA's Professional Practices Committee (PPC) has concluded that Bell Pottinger has breached the trade body's code of conduct in its work for controversial South African client Oakbay Investments,” the online PR publication reported on Thursday.

"The PRCA said ahead of that hearing that if the PPC were to reject the complaint, then this would be announced by the end of yesterday (August 23)," it said. "No such announcement has been made."

The PRCA would not comment on this outcome, PRWeek reported. The PRCA will publish its decision in the week starting September 4 and Bell Pottinger will be given an opportunity to appeal.

However, DA spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said the PR body has until the end of Thursday to make its decision, and that the publication made the call too early. "We checked with PRCA," she told Fin24. "We have to wait until close of business for them to communicate their decision."

However, EWN has tweeted that the PRCA told them that if the DA's complaint was not upheld, it would have announced it by now.

Following the news, there were allegations that Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson had resigned on Thursday. However, the author of the above PRWeek story tweeted that this was not true.

The PPC held a hearing behind closed doors last Friday, after a complaint by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The SA opposition party alleged that Bell Pottinger stoked racial hatred in South Africa in the work it did for the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane, both shareholders in Tegeta Exploration & Resources.

Van Damme travelled to London to present the DA’s evidence against Bell Pottinger in the disciplinary hearing into the embattled PR firm’s conduct.

“The DA presented a solid case against the PR firm, on how it sought to exploit the already fragmented race relations in our country. This to benefit the Guptas and the Zumas, in their quest to completely loot and plunder our public coffers,” she said in a statement after the hearing.

“The DA is of the view that Bell Pottinger’s pro-Gupta propaganda campaign contravened the PRCA’s Codes of Conduct.”

She told Fin24 on Thursday that she would comment shortly.

Leaked Gupta emails have shown that the PR company orchestrated a narrative on "white monopoly capital" that has divided the ANC. The divisions came to a head at the ANC policy conference.

Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson told the BBC that "we were very naive" and said the company had no intention to stir racial hatred.

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