Atul Gupta told the BBC his side of the story last week, saying Bell Pottinger, an "ethical" British public relations company, was hired to polish the image of the Guptas’ Oakbay company and that the leaked  e-mails were not authentic. But everyone knows the Bell Pottinger public relations campaign on behalf of the Guptas and Zuma family was at least an exercise in deception and perhaps something more — like state capture. The remit of a public relations firm, hired by a particular client, is to enhance the image of its client and, if possible, to make it popular in the eyes of a target market, in this instance, the South African public. Tobacco companies have used public relations firms to mount campaigns targeting high school pupils, projecting themselves as caring and responsible corporate entities and not as purveyors of cancerous products. We call that spin. Bell Pottinger did not mount a campaign for Oakbay, it did not try to polish its tarnished image. Rather, it engaged in a...

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