Bell Pottinger’s conduct in SA discussed in UK parliament

Parliamentarian Peter Hain questioned whether the PR firm’s work for Oakbay contravened the country’s trade policies.

Bell POttinger. Picture: @BellPottinger/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Bell Pottinger’s conduct in South Africa was in the spotlight in the UK parliament on Thursday.

Parliamentarian Peter Hain questioned whether the PR firm’s work for Oakbay contravened the country’s trade policies and whether UK government officials were involved in any way.

The government says none of its officials were involved.

This week a UK PR regulator found its campaigns for the Gupta family to have fanned racial tension in South Africa.

Lord Young of Cookham says he was informed by the High Commissioner in South Africa that the deal has caused severe damage to the UK’s reputation.

“I think the reputation of Bell Pottinger has been seriously impaired. This is a company which seeks to boost the image of other companies and here they are having a very severe reputational hit on their own.

“They could begin to put that right perhaps by donating any profit that’s been made from this contract to some charity in South Africa.”

PR AGENCY EXPLORING POTENTIAL SALE

The British PR agency said on Wednesday it was exploring a potential sale after it lost business for running a racially charged campaign in South Africa, leaving its future increasingly uncertain.

Bell Pottinger said it had hired accountancy firm BDO “to look at all options for the business including a possible sale”, as the tarnished company faced the prospect of being broken up.

Banking giant HSBC cut ties with Bell Pottinger and the PR agency’s second-biggest shareholder walked away on Tuesday after it was thrown out of an industry body for running a campaign that the political opposition said had inflamed racial tensions.

The Democratic Alliance had complained to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) that Bell Pottinger’s campaign was trying to “divide and conquer” the South African public in order to keep President Jacob Zuma and his party in power.

The PRCA expelled Bell Pottinger for a minimum of five years.

Additional information by Reuters.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)