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Bell Pottinger called to account by UK's PR authority

Jul 18 2017 14:40
Jan Gerber, News24

Cape Town - English public relations firm Bell Pottinger will have to explain the campaign it ran for the Guptas and Oakbay in South Africa to the UK-based Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), which will start its hearing into the matter on August 18.

"As previously announced, the complaint filed by the Democratic Alliance against Bell Pottinger is being considered by a Professional Practices Committee," the PRCA's director general Francis Ingham said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This committee has decided to hold a hearing on this case with both parties on Friday, 18th August, 2017. Both the Democratic Alliance and Bell Pottinger are now required to provide full evidence to the committee ahead of this hearing. We want to thank both sides again for their cooperation so far."

The DA alleges 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 Zuma, both shareholders in Tegeta Exploration & Resources. The party laid the complaint with the professional body that oversees rules and ethics for public relations companies.

Following the revelations contained in the #GuptaLeaks, it appears that Bell Pottinger has violated, among others, clause 4 of the PRCA's charter, which states that: "[A] member is required to take all reasonable care that professional duties are conducted without causing offence on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability or any other form of discrimination or unacceptable reference," according to the DA.

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 had to respond to the DA's complaint by July 13, which it has done.

The beleaguered PR firm, which had to deal with the online wrath of South Africans, issued an apology to the country which was widely rejected by the public and political parties alike. South Africans protested outside the company's offices in London on Friday, with posters reading "stronger than Bell Pottinger".

In April the PR company faced a public relations nightmare over its relationship with the politically-connected Gupta family, and dropped them as clients.

DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme welcomed the PRCA's decision and said the party looks forward to making its presentation in London.

"Bell Pottinger designed and carried out a hateful and divisive propaganda campaign for the Guptas and the Zumas in our country, which is still dealing with a very painful past," said Van Damme in a statement on Tuesday.

"The DA welcomes that this hearing will go ahead as we must stand up to those who seek to divide us.

"The South African public stood up against Bell Pottinger in South Africa and in London and we will continue to do so. We will also continue to push Bell Pottinger for full disclosure of their Gupta account and that the money from this account be paid back to South Africa."

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