Bell Pottinger 'damaged UK's reputation in South Africa'

08 September 2017 - 05:51 By Nico Gous
An office building containing the London headquarters of the PR company Bell Pottinger is seen behind an entrance to an underground train station in London, September 5, 2017.
An office building containing the London headquarters of the PR company Bell Pottinger is seen behind an entrance to an underground train station in London, September 5, 2017.
Image: REUTERS/Toby Melville

The controversial British PR firm Bell Pottinger had damaged the UK's reputation in South Africa, the House of Lords heard on Thursday.

Speaking after Lord Peter Hain had asked if the British government had any contracts with Bell Pottinger, British High Commissioner Nigel Casey said: "I want to put it on record that at no stage was Her Majesty's government in any way involved in their work in South Africa."

The DA 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 to keep President Jacob Zuma and the ANC in power. The PRCA expelled the firm.

Bell Pottinger said on Wednesday it had hired accountancy firm BDO to advise it on a possible sale after its work in South Africa.

British cabinet spokesman Lord Young said he was in contact with the Registrar of Lobbyists to establish whether Bell Pottinger was still a member that could campaign on behalf of ministers and secretaries.

"As the legislation stands, you can only be removed from that register if you stop doing public relations business. You can't be removed from the register for the sort of activities that we've been talking about."

Young said the government supported the "stark conclusions" of the PRCA and Herbert Freehills Smith's report.

Hain quoted former finance minister Pravin Gordhan's claim that Zuma and the Guptas had laundered R6.8-billion. He asked if any British banks were involved in laundering this money.

Young said there had been no indication of money-laundering.


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