President Jacob Zuma and Atul and Ajay Gupta Montage: Independent Media

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance has written to the UK-based Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) as well as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to lodge formal complaints against Bell Pottinger on allegations that they promoted racial hatred in South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma, in his capacity as an employee of the politically connected Gupta family, procured the services of Bell Pottinger in what seemed to have been an attempt to "divide and conquer the South African public by exploiting racial tensions" in a bid to keep Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress in power, DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said on Sunday.

Bell Pottinger was a member of the PRCA and the CIPR. Both had a clear a code of conduct that PR firms had to adhere to, she said.

According to section 4 of the PRCA Professional Charter pertaining to discriminatory conduct, “[a] member is required to take all reasonable care that professional duties are conducted without causing offence on the grounds of... race... or any other form of discrimination or unacceptable reference”.

Moreover, section 1(a), (c), and (d) of the CIPR Code of Conduct stated that “[m]embers of the [CIPR] agree to: a) maintain the highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety, and personal conduct; c) respect, in their dealings with other people, the legal and regulatory frameworks, and codes of all countries where they practise; d) uphold the reputation of, and do nothing that would bring into disrepute, the public relations profession or the [CIPR]”.

In a leaked Gupta email, Nick Lambert, a senior advisor at Bell Pottinger, identified “key moments” in a speech which was delivered by ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine. These key moments included the quote: “Those who want to disrupt the state of the nation speech must prepare themselves for a civil war.”

"It is disturbing that the incitement of a civil war in South Africa is identified as a 'key moment' by a Bell Pottinger advisor," Van Damme said.

Furthermore, in another email, Bell Pottinger’s financial and corporate partner Victoria Geoghegan met with Duduzane Zuma to strategise a campaign aimed at marketing a "narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it, and feel united by it".

"From this correspondence, it seems as though Bell Pottinger was likely requested by Mr Zuma to undermine the ANC’s communication on policies in order to benefit the Gupta family.

"The DA has now written to these bodies to lodge formal complaints against Bell Pottinger as it has seemingly violated the Codes of Conduct of these regulatory bodies and behaved in an unethical manner. We urge the PRCA and the CIPR to fully investigate these allegations, as any attempt by a PR agency to foment racial divisions in South Africa cannot be tolerated," Van Damme said.