BRITISH PR FIRM FOUNDTO HAVE EXPLOITED RACIAL TENSIONS IN ITS PR CAMPAIGN FOR SOUTH AFRICA’S RULING ANC

JOHANNESBURG, The democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s main opposition party, says its complaint that British public relations firm Bell Pottinger had “exploited racial tensions” in a campaign on behalf of the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has been upheld.

DA Spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said here Thursday that Britain’s Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) had informed the DA that Bell Pottinger had been found to have violated the association’s professional charter.

“Bell Pottinger will now be given five days to appeal the PRCA’s decision if it so chooses,” said Van Damme.

The DA had accused Bell Pottinger of working to “divide and conquer the South African public by exploiting racial tensions in a bid to keep (South African President) Jacob Zuma and the ANC in power”.

The PR firm had organized a public relations campaign in South Africa condemning opponents of President Zuma and leftist elements of his own ruling ANC as agents of “white monopoly capital”. Such slogans gained traction in a country where the white minority still wields disproportionate economic power, two decades after the end of apartheid.

A source familiar with the matter in London confirmed that the DA’s complaint had been upheld by the PRCA. Bell Pottinger, a British multinational public relations and marketing company which was the largest public relations consultancy in Britain in 201, measured by fee income, was not available to comment.

The basis of the DA’s allegations were leaked emails which implied that Bell Pottinger worked with South African President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, to create a “narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population”.

Duduzane Zuma was working at the time for a company controlled by the Guptas, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen who are accused of exerting undue influence over the president, in what is referred to here as “State capture”. They and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

Bell Pottinger’s PR campaign themes were aired frequently on a Gupta-owned television station and on social media. The firm was paid for its services by Oakbay, the holding company of the Guptas’ mining-to-media empire, but it ended the contract in April after widespread criticism.

On July 6, Bell Pottinger said it had fired a partner in charge of its PR campaign in South Africa. It said the firm was “deeply sorry that this happened” and that elements of the campaign had been “inappropriate and insensitive” in a country with a troubled racial past.

The PRCA has said it will publish its final decision on the week beginning Sept 4. The maximum penalty for breaching the industry body’s code could be termination of Bell Pottinger’s membership of the PRCA, whose Code of Conduct states that members should “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”.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK