Bell Pottinger had to be punished - PRCA

The association dismissed out of hand the agency's claim that it had no idea the campaign it ran could have inflamed racial discord.

FILE: A screengrab of the protected British public relations firm Bell Pottinger Twitter page. Picture: Twitter.

CAPE TOWN – The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) says it was left with little choice but to punish Bell Pottinger as harshly as is allowed.

The UK regulator lambasted the PR firm after it found Bell Pottinger to have fanned racial divisions in South Africa through some of the campaigns it concocted for the Gupta-owned Oakbay Capital.

The ruling stems from a complaint lodged by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in July.

The association dismissed out of hand the agency's claim that it had no idea the campaign it ran could have inflamed racial discord.

The body's Matt Cartmell said: “We’ve never taken this high-profile route with any of our members, particularly with a company so internationally renowned as Bell Pottinger, but their bridge was so clear that we had no option but to expel them for at least five years.”

The Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa's Kavitha Kalicheran said: “I think for me what is key is the aspect of responsibility and accountability. That part is missing and I think for South Africans and the international arena, people want information as to the disclosure of what went down on the Oakbay account.”

DA VS BELL POTTINGER

The DA's mission to bring Bell Pottinger to task is not over yet.

The DA's Phumzile van Damme says they are looking at other avenues to continue putting pressure on Bell Pottinger.

“Particularly to ensure that Bell Pottinger gives full disclosure of the accounts that they had with the Guptas so we're exploring all the options that are available to us.”

Kalicheran says they are backing such a move.

“[It's] All well and good that the sanctions have been passed down, however, there has to be some sort of accountability and that needs to be from their side.”

The DA is specifically looking to get access to the 45,000 documents studied by an independent investigator into the matter.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)