Bell Pottinger should be sorry, not for the conversations it started here, but for those it has stopped. It is a rare British public relations (PR) firm that can offend South Africans on the left, right and in the centre who, not surprisingly, reject the stoking of racial tension to protect the backs of people accused of buying ministers. But justifiable outrage at Bell Pottinger and its Oakbay campaign has also spawned a myth that makes it harder for society to face its problems. Much of the reaction assumes that the company invented the notion that there is racial exclusion in the economy, that it created division where none existed and that the idea that the marketplace in SA is still stacked against black participation was purely the figment of a PR campaign. However, many black business people and professionals know the company did not invent anything — it simply exploited a divide that already exists. PR campaigns try to get their message across by tapping into issues that wor...

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