Bell Pottinger, the reviled public relations firm which did so much to single-handedly foment racial tension in this country this year, was given a serious smack this week.
The British PR and Communication Association found that the company had acted unethically – after the DA had asked it to investigate Bell Pottinger’s conduct. The company could now lose its membership of the association and even worse as current and future clients choose to give it a wide berth.
It’s only fitting.
Bell Pottinger did not just disgrace the craft of public relations, it did so cynically to make a quick buck, playing on the very real fears and tensions in this fractured nation of ours.
The company was paid by the infamous Gupta family, which this week attempted to unbundle its resources – the effectively worthless New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7 and its Tegeta mining holdings.
The media interests were "sold" to Mzwanele Manyi, long an acolyte of the so-called Saxonwold Shebeen, but the family gave him the money. They termed it "vendor financing", not even blushing at the ridiculous R450m price tag that has no basis in reality.
Tegeta, the much-vaunted BEE miner, ended up being sold to a company that no one had ever heard of but that was eventually discovered to be a Swiss shelf company owned by a UAE businessman. It is surely no coincidence that the UAE is where the family have apparently transferred much of their asset base.
These were not real transactions, but ruses to hoodwink the public and deflect incredible anger away from a family seen as central to the entire state capture scandal, and maybe a bid to get banking facilities after the family was dramatically unbanked. Or maybe both.
Bell Pottinger will face some consequences. But the Guptas seem to have a Teflon-like shield against the consequences of their actions. They need to be brought to book, once and for all.
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