The Democratic Alliance (DA), which laid a complaint against Bell Pottinger, has “welcomed” the expulsion of the international public relations company from the Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA).
In an early Tuesday morning statement, DA member of parliament Phumzile van Damme said: “The DA welcomes the PRCA decision to terminate Bell Pottinger’s membership from the PR regulatory body with immediate effect”.
The DA complaint was that Bell Pottinger exploited racial tensions in South Africa on behalf of the Gupta family, and Duduzane Zuma, President Jacob Zuma’s son.
The PRCA Board of Management on Monday said it had unanimously concluded that Bell Pottinger breached Clauses 1.1 and 4 of the PRCA Professional Charter and Clauses 12 and 13 of the PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code.
“This expulsion is very serious indeed, and only the second such instance in over a decade. The DA commends PRCA for the transparent and professional manner in which they pursued this matter,” said Van Damme.
The sanction is the most serious penalty a firm can face and is of significant reputational damage for the embattled spin doctors. The PRCA found that not only did Bell Pottinger fail “to maintain and protect its own reputation” but also “the standing of the profession as a whole”.
“What this means, is that while Bell Pottinger will still be able to conduct PR work internationally, it can no longer do so with the honour of being a member of Europe’s largest and most influential PR and communications membership body. This will cause a major knock in their credibility, and no doubt, their bottom line,” explained Van Damme.
“The DA thanks the people of South Africa for making it loud and clear that unethical conduct by private companies in aid of corrupt individuals will not be tolerated.”
Van Damme said it will take years to rebuild “our severely fragile race relations”, which Bell Pottinger, the Guptas and the Zumas sought to exploit for their own financial gains.
She said the ruling is by no means an indication that Bell Pottinger is off the hook just yet.
“Bell Pottinger must take responsibility for their actions and disclose all information regarding their Oakbay Capital account and reinvest all monies from their Oakbay account back into South Africa. The DA is exploring further steps that can be taken to force the full disclosure.”