The beginning of 2017 has not been a favourable time for Bell Pottinger, a UK-based PR firm that was commissioned to save the reputation and improve the public appearance of President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family. On Saturday the 15th of April 2017, thousands of South Africans took to High Holborn to protest outside of the Bell Pottinger head office, demanding that Bell Pottinger cuts all ties with the Gupta family. They also demanded that the PR firm gives back the money they’ve earned at the expense of South Africans.
Bell Pottinger ran an extensive – albeit ineffective – social media campaign to cause mayhem in our country. Their campaign consisted of numerous fake organisations, news websites, blogs and twitter accounts. All of which were aimed at defending the Gupta family and causing a racial divide amongst South Africans. Their campaign focused on turning the tables on those who have accused the Gupta family of “state capture”, while also accusing billionaire Johann Rupert of being the face of “white monopoly capital”.
Even though the UK-based PR company had recently cut all ties with the Gupta-owned Oakbay Investment Group, protesters believe that there are more Gupta contracts that remain in place.
Bell Pottinger charged around R1.5million a month for their social media campaign, and many South Africans feel that this money should be returned to the country, as it was used to cause upheaval in our society. Gilbert Martin, the Managing Director of We Are South Africans, said “the protesters wanted the PR company to give back the money it earned in South Africa. This is about honesty, integrity. They have created divisions, allegedly or not. The message is clear: we find our country in crisis both politically and economically. Do the right thing, Bell Pottinger: give something to the poor. Those are the people who have lost from this horrid PR campaign that was launched against our country.”
While the UK has been experiencing their own political turmoil due to Brexit, it makes no sense for a UK-based company to try and disrupt South Africa in hopes of defending the people who have tried to break our country down. Do you think that Bell Pottinger would return the money? If so, what do you suggest our government does with the money?