The fallout: British public relations firm Bell Pottinger tried to present the enemies of the Zuptas as treasonous enemies of the South African public — a spin campaign that has blown up in its face. Picture: SUPPLIED
The fallout: British public relations firm Bell Pottinger tried to present the enemies of the Zuptas as treasonous enemies of the South African public — a spin campaign that has blown up in its face. Picture: SUPPLIED

The controversial British public relations firm Bell Pottinger has damaged the UK’s reputation in SA.

This is what British high commissioner Nigel Casey told British cabinet spokesperson Lord George Young on Thursday morning.

Young noted this on Thursday in the House of Lords after Lord Peter Hain asked if the British government had any contracts with Bell Pottinger.

Young said: "I want to put it on record that at no stage was her majesty’s government in any way involved in their work in SA."

The DA complained to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) that Bell Pottinger’s campaign was trying to "divide and conquer" the South African public to keep President Jacob Zuma and the ANC in power. The PRCA expelled Bell Pottinger for a minimum of five years.

Bell Pottinger said on Wednesday that it had hired accountancy firm BDO to advise on a possible sale after its work in SA. Young said he was in contact with the registrar of lobbyists to establish if Bell Pottinger was still a member that could campaign on behalf of ministers and secretaries.

"As the legislation stands‚ you can only be removed from that register if you stop doing public relations business. You can’t be removed from the register for the sort of activities that we’ve been talking about."

Young said the government supported the "stark conclusions" of the PRSA and Herbert Freehills Smith’s report, and said their campaigns were "completely unacceptable".

Hain quoted former finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s claim that Zuma and the Guptas laundered R6.8bn. He asked if any British banks were involved in laundering this money.

Young said there had been no indications of money laundering‚ but it would be investigated if there were any evidence.

"If the lord has evidence of money laundering‚ then of course that should be investigated. We have some of the toughest money-laundering regulations in the world."

Young suggested Bell Pottinger could make amends by donating the profits from their work in SA to a local charity.

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