Oakbay offices in Sandton. Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS
Oakbay offices in Sandton. Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

The “white monopoly capital” catchphrase coined by the Guptas’ public relations consultants to divert attention from accusations of state capture, has claimed its first four scalps at the company.

The UK-based Bell Pottinger said on Thursday it had dismissed a lead partner, a partner and two other staff involved in handling the Oakbay Capital account. Bell Pottinger engaged international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to review the Oakbay account and the work it had done on it.

Three months ago, Bell Pottinger said it had decided to cease work for Oakbay Capital after a year-long relationship.

“When we terminated our work with Oakbay‚ we said we were doing so because of increasingly strong social media attacks on our staff and our business from South Africa‚ and that we regarded the criticisms of what our team had done as unfair,” the company said.

The law firm was contracted after claims that Bell Pottinger “supported or aided campaigns to stir up racial division in SA”.

Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson said on Thursday that the investigation was continuing and would be completed in the next few weeks.

“We intend to publish the findings of that report and take appropriate action‚” Henderson said. Interim evidence shown to the group had dismayed it.

“Much of what has been alleged about our work is … not true — but enough of it is to be of deep concern‚” he said.

“There has been a social media campaign that highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that we‚ having now seen it‚ consider to be inappropriate and offensive.”

At various stages, while Bell Pottinger was handling the Oakbay account, its senior management was misled about what had been done. “For it to be done in SA‚ a country which has become an international beacon of hope for its progress towards racial reconciliation‚ is a matter of profound regret and in no way reflects the values of Bell Pottinger,” he said.

“We wish to issue a full‚ unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted.

These activities should never have been undertaken. We are deeply sorry that this happened‚” said Henderson.

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