Diplomatic Channel

British PR firm appeals against ruling it ran ‘racial’ campaign in South Africa

LONDON (Reuters) – British public relations firm Bell Pottinger has appealed against a finding that it stoked racial tensions in South Africa through a media campaign, an industry body confirmed on Friday.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance DA, complained to Britain’s Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) about a campaign organized by the PR firm which condemned opponents of President Jacob Zuma as agents of “white monopoly capital”.

Such slogans gained traction in a country where the white minority still wields disproportionate economic power, two decades after the end of apartheid.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance said its complaint had been upheld and that Bell Pottinger had five days to appeal the PRCA’s decision. A source familiar with the matter in London confirmed to Reuters that the DA’s complaint had been upheld.

In a statement on Friday, the PRCA confirmed an appeal had been submitted and said its Board of Management would issue its final decision on Sept. 5.

If found to have violated the association’s professional charter, the maximum penalty Bell Pottinger could face would be termination of its PRCA membership.

The PRCA’s code states members should “take all reasonable care that professional duties are conducted without causing offense on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability or any other form of discrimination”.

In July, Bell Pottinger fired a partner in charge of its PR campaign in South Africa. It said that elements of the campaign had been “inappropriate and insensitive” in a country with a troubled racial past, and that it was “deeply sorry”.

Reporting by Emma Rumney; editing by Andrew Roche