Bell Pottinger apology shot down

07 July 2017 - 08:31 By Timeslive
A logo of Oakbay Investments is seen at the entrance of their offices in Sandton, outside Johannesburg, South Africa April 13, 2016.
A logo of Oakbay Investments is seen at the entrance of their offices in Sandton, outside Johannesburg, South Africa April 13, 2016.

UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger’s apology for an offensive social media campaign in South Africa is “insufficient and totally unacceptable”‚ says the Save South Africa campaign.

The company yesterday confirmed that it had dismissed the lead partner involved and suspended another partner and two employees over accusations that it supported and aided campaigns to stir up racial division in South Africa through its work for Gupta-owned Oakbay Capital.

“There has been a social media campaign that highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that we‚ having now seen it‚ consider to be inappropriate and offensive‚” Bell Pottinger chief executive James Henderson said on Thursday.

“We wish to issue a full‚ unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted‚” he said‚ adding that executives had been “misled” about the campaign.

South Africans have widely condemned the apology‚ saying it was simply not good enough.

“Bell Pottinger – acting in partnership with its client – sowed racial mistrust‚ hate and race-baiting‚ and divided society. Through its work‚ this British company has further polarized South African society and left deep scars in our social fabric‚” said a statement by the Save South Africa campaign.

“It cannot be left to hide behind spin and say it was ‘misled’. This attempted naivety is unacceptable from a company with a global history of disinformation and dirty tricks.

“We therefore demand to know who it worked with in South Africa‚ what its brief was‚ and who provided that brief – and‚ most importantly‚ who it was ‘misled’ by.”

Save South Africa said Bell Pottinger needed to explain:

- Whether it channelled money to front organisations which themselves fuelled even further division‚ such as Black First Land First and the so-called Decolonisation Foundation‚ as alleged in a report released by the SA Communist Party.

- What its relationship was with the Gupta “propaganda arms”‚ such as ANN7 and The New Age.

- Whether it has done work for any other entities that form part of the Gupta web of influence‚ including captured South African government departments and state-owned entities.

- Whether it continues to do work for South African clients.

“It is public pressure on Bell Pottinger that got us this far‚ and resulted in two major victories: the termination of its contract with Oakbay‚ and its public apology.

“But we must keep up the pressure‚ and demand full disclosure. Only then can we begin to unravel the mess that Bell Pottinger – and the Guptas – have caused‚ and address the damage they have left in their wake‚” said Save South Africa.

Twitter was buzzing with reaction to the statement with #BellPottinger trending early on Friday.