Ex-President Jonathan’s PR adviser expelled in South Africa for stirring up racial tensions

Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Public Relations adviser, Bell Pottinger, has been blacklisted by Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) in South Africa.

Powerbase listed the firm as working for Jonathan in 2014 in preparation for the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. Also Africa confidential said: “Joe Trippi, who worked on the campaigns of such luminaries as Walter Mondale, Edward Kennedyand Howard Dean, is advising Jonathan. Alongside him is Bell Pottinger, the firm that helped Margaret Thatcher win three elections.

The decision by the Britain-based Public Relations and Communications Associations (PRCA) comes after Bell Pottinger ran a campaign which included the phrase "white monopoly capital".

The campaign was carried out on behalf of Oakbay Capital, a company run by the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of wielding undue influence over the South African government.

A PRCA committee set up to investigate said the British firm's work was "likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa and appears to have done exactly that".

"Bell Pottinger have stirred up racial tensions in South Africa, they haven't been honest with the public," PRCA director general Francis Ingham told AFP.

"Bell Pottinger pitted white people against black people and those who possess goods to those who don't possess much."

Ingham cast doubt on whether the high-profile company would survive, adding that "Bell Pottinger is going to have to prove that it has changed, and changed fundamentally."

- S.Africa's 'fragile race relations' -

Bell Pottinger co-founder Tim Bell told the BBC on Monday that the scandal "almost certainly" signalled the end for the firm.

"I think it probably is getting near the end, you can try and rescue it but it won't be very successful," Bell told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

"I don't take any responsibility... I resigned from the company in August last year, I published my resignation and I said one of the reasons I was leaving was because of the Gupta account," he said.

South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which lodged the complaint with the PRCA, hailed Bell Pottinger's expulsion.

"It will take our country years to rebuild our severely fragile race relations, which Bell Pottinger, the Guptas and (South African President Jacob) Zuma sought to exploit for their own financial gains," it said.

The DA previously accused Bell Pottinger -- which was tasked with defending the Guptas' reputation -- of having run a "campaign to divide South Africa along the lines of race".

President Zuma is accused of unfairly granting lucrative government contracts to the Guptas and even taking orders from them over ministerial appointments.

The DA party hopes to make major gains against Zuma's ANC party, which was led to power in 1994 by Nelson Mandela, at 2019 elections.

On Sunday, Bell Pottinger's chief executive James Henderson resigned.

"There were warning signs that I should have heeded. Therefore I must take responsibility," he said.

An independent report conducted by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills released on Monday found senior management at fault for failing to put in place adequate policies.


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