Bell Pottinger, the public relations company founded by Margaret Thatcher’s spin doctor Lord Bell, will on Friday be hauled before the public relations and communications association (PRCA) disciplinary committee over allegations it ran a secret campaign to stir up racial tension in South Africa on behalf of billionaire clients.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance party, has demanded that the British PR industry body censures Bell Pottinger for running a “hateful and divisive campaign to divide South Africa along the lines of race”.
Bell Pottinger is accused of seeking to stir up anger about “white monopoly capital” and the “economic apartheid” in the country to draw attention away from the wealthy and controversial Gupta family who are accused of exploiting their friendship with President Jacob Zuma to extract billions of dollars from the state. Bell Pottinger, which was being paid £100,000-a-month by the Guptas’s Oakbay company, allegedly orchestrated the creation of fake Twitter accounts to target prominent white business people in South Africa, some of whom were clients of Bell Pottinger.
Maimane, who this week called an unsuccessful vote of no confidence in Zuma over allegations that he gave the Guptas’ companies preferential access to government contracts, has called for the PRCA to strip Bell Pottinger of its membership of the trade body. He has also called on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to also investigate Bell Pottinger’s work in South Africa, which has led to protests outside the firm’s offices and a social media campaign using the hashtag #bellpottingermustfall.
“Bell Pottinger must face consequences for their collusion with the Guptas using a hateful and divisive campaign to divide South Africans along the lines of race. This was coordinated campaign to further Gupta financial interests‚ and ensure the captured ANC continued to provide lucrative contracts…