August 18, 2017 / 4:22 PM / 3 years ago

South African opposition urges under-fire UK PR firm to donate fees to charity

Phumzile Van Damme of the Democratic Alliance National speaks outide the Bell Pottinger offices in London, Britain August 18, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - South Africa’s main opposition party called on the London-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger to donate to charity the money it earned from a PR campaign after a hearing held to investigate the company’s conduct on Friday.

An adviser to major corporations and governments around the world, Bell Pottinger apologised in July and fired a partner in charge of a campaign that the opposition Democratic Alliance group said had inflamed racial tensions.

The DA, a traditionally white party that is becoming more inclusive, has accused Bell Pottinger of working to “divide and conquer the South African public by exploiting racial tensions in a bid to keep Jacob Zuma and the ANC in power.”

Bell was not available to comment on Friday.

“The money Bell Pottinger has got must be paid back to South Africa and must be used through charities that will improve the lives of the South African people,” said DA spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme in London.

Van Damme was speaking after Bell Pottinger appeared at a hearing before Britain’s Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) in London after a complaint by the DA. The PR body will decide in the coming days whether to uphold the complaint and whether to reprimand the company.

The basis of the DA’s allegations were leaked emails that implied that Bell Pottinger worked with South African President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, to create a “narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population.”

According to an email published in South African media, Bell Pottinger said the campaign needed to stress the continued “existence of economic apartheid.”

Duduzane Zuma was working at the time for a company controlled by the Guptas, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen accused of exerting undue influence over the president. They and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin

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