Gordhan slams Bell Pottinger, calls on the PR agency to spill the beans on Guptas

Pravin Gordhan addresses media and demonstrators outside the National Treasury, Pravin was fired the night before as the Minister of Finance during a Cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma, 31 March 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The former minister wants the PR firm to make a full disclosure on the Guptas’ brief to them and reasons for dismissing their partner‚ Victoria Geoghegan.

A “pathetic coverup” and an “insult” to South Africans – those are some of the scathing words former finance minister Pravin Gordhan used when rejecting last week’s apology by UK-based PR firm Bell Pottinger, which used to have the Gupta family as one of its clients.

“[Its apology] uses ‘white monopoly capital’ as a narrative to cover a vast array of nefarious activities at the behest of‚ and in collaboration with‚ the ‘Gupta syndicate’,” Gordhan told the Sunday Times on Thursday.

“The minor admissions made vindicate what we’ve been saying for almost two years – that the attacks on institutions such as the National Treasury and on individuals and their families were designed to malign them and create a distraction from the activities of the ‘syndicate’.”

Gordhan, one of the company’s main targets, said he wanted Bell Pottinger to make a full disclosure on the Guptas’ brief to them, as well as spill the beans on what their partner‚ Victoria Geoghegan‚ got fired for.

The former minister said Bell Pottinger went “beyond image management” and stood accused of cooperating in a systematic plan to capture the South African state, as shown by various probes into state capture.

“You don’t just cook up things or help to create fake Twitter accounts and start labelling people. If you are just a PR agency‚ you don’t get involved in that‚” he said.



On allegations that the company sowed racial divisions in the country, Gordhan said Bell Pottinger had attempted to legitimise and provide a rationale for the looting of state resources.

“Even if you take them at their word in terms of white monopoly capital being a terrible thing‚ that is interfering in a historic and national project that we were involved in as South African to bring our different communities together and build a nation as envisioned by the Mandelas of the world, and they were undermining and sabotaging that work,” he said.

DA to picket outside Bell Pottinger’s doorstep

On Friday, the DA abroad is expected to hold a picket outside Bell Pottinger’s offices in Holborn, London.

The party’s spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme, said they had given the PR agency until the close of business today to respond to its complaint that it had violated the Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA) Professional Charter and Code of Conduct, which the company is bound to.

“PRCA agreed to the DA’s request for an investigation into Bell Pottinger after the Gupta emails revealed that the company launched a racially charged propaganda campaign for the benefit of their clients, the Guptas,” she said in a statement.

Van Damme also said depending on whether there was substantive prima facie evidence, PRCA would either refer the probe to a committee or would initiate disciplinary procedures against Bell Pottinger.

“Their apology last week was simply not enough. In truth, it was an admission of guilt, and the DA, therefore, encourages all our fellow London-based South Africans to join us between 5pm and 7pm to stand up to Bell Pottinger.

“The DA will also hand over a memorandum demanding that all profits from Gupta business deals be put towards building schools or any developmental nongovernment organisations in South Africa,” she said.



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