Bell Pottinger damaged UK's reputation in SA‚ House of Lords told

07 September 2017 - 15:04
By Nico Gous
Lord Tim Bell, former chairman of Bell Pottinger.
Lord Tim Bell, former chairman of Bell Pottinger.

The controversial British public relations firm Bell Pottinger has damaged the United Kingdom’s reputation in South Africa.

This is what British High Commissioner Nigel Casey told British Cabinet spokesperson Lord George Young on Thursday morning.

Young revealed this on Thursday in the House of Lords after Lord Peter Hain asked if the British government has any contracts with Bell Pottinger.

Young 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 Democratic Alliance 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 Bell Pottinger for a minimum of five years.

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

Young said he was in contact with the Registrar of Lobbyists to establish if Bell Pottinger is still a member who can 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 supports the “stark conclusions” of the PRSA and Herbert Freehills Smith’s report and said their campaigns were “completely unacceptable”.

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

Young said there have been no indications of money laundering‚ but it will be investigated if there is any evidence.

“If the lord has evidence of money laundering‚ then of course that should be investigated. We have some of the toughest money laundering regulations in the world.”

Young suggested Bell Pottinger could make amends by donating the profits from their work in South Africa to a local charity.