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South Africans to picket outside Bell Pottinger in London as firm responds to complaint

Jul 14 2017 11:32
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – South Africans will picket outside Bell Pottinger’s headquarters in London on Friday, while the UK-based PR firm has responded to a complaint that it violated the Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA) professional charter and code of conduct.

This follows its apology last week for the work they have done with the Gupta family and Oakbay Capital, following allegations that they sowed racial divisions in South Africa.

“At various points throughout the tenure of the Oakbay account, senior management have been misled about what has been done. For it to be done in South Africa, a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation, is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger,” the PR firm said in a statement last week.

It fired its lead manager on the account, Victoria Geoghegan, and suspended other members of the team pending an investigation into the Oakbay account.

Many South Africans refused to accept the apology, including political parties across the spectrum.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which lodged a complaint with the UK’s PRCA, said Bell Pottinger met its deadline to respond by the close of business on Thursday.

“The written submissions will now be referred to a committee for consideration and they will decide whether a disciplinary hearing should be held,” DA communications spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said in a statement on Friday.

“Should the committee decide to proceed with a disciplinary hearing into the PR firm’s conduct, they have confirmed that it will likely be held on 16, 17 or 18 August in London.”

This comes as the DA Abroad holds a picket outside of Bell Pottinger’s offices in London on Friday, where it will hand over a memorandum of demands that Bell Pottinger make public any and all communication and contracts pertaining to the work they done for the Guptas; declare all funds received for services rendered to the Guptas and the ANC; and invest these funds in building schools or donations to NGOs.

The DA Abroad’s Will van der Merwe told Fin24 that the intention is to show Bell Pottinger that South Africans – regardless of their political affiliation or race – are bigger than their alleged campaign to sow racial discord.

Their picket will see South Africans post images of themselves united on social media using the hashtag #StrongerthanBellPottinger.

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