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Bell Pottinger hearing to be held in private

The PRCA requires both parties involved in the matter to all agree before the hearings can be open to the public.

A screengrab of British public relations firm Bell Pottinger's Twitter page.

CAPE TOWN - The hearings into the conduct of British public relations firm Bell Pottinger will be held behind closed doors.

The Public Relations and Communications Association made the announcement following the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s request last week that the hearings be open given the high degree of public interest in the matter.

The regulatory body is investigating Bell Pottinger after the DA lodged a complaint about some of the campaigns it ran in South Africa for Oakbay, the company owned by the controversial Gupta family.

The main opposition claims the campaign stirred racial tensions in the country.

The Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct requires both parties involved in the matter, as well as the committee members, to agree before the hearings can be open to the public.

It is not clear if it was Bell Pottinger who insisted procedures to be held in private or not.

The PR firm and the DA are allowed to invite other parties to submit evidence supporting their respective cases.

Although no organisation has been selected to do this yet, some civil organisations, among them the Helen Suzman Foundation, Section27 and Save SA have stated their interest in being involved in any probe into Bell Pottinger.

The DA has called on the interested civic groups to contact party officials.

The party's Phumzile van Damme said, “We’re seeing media reports that there is interest, but they [interested parties] haven’t been in touch with us and we would be happy to look at those presentations and decide on a way forward.”