Bell Pottinger not off the hook: law expert


Bell Pottinger.

JOHANNESBURG – Controversial British company Bell Pottinger is not off the hook yet.

Despite an apology, at least one law expert believes the firm hired by Gupta-owned firm Oakbay Capital, could still face the music.

The PR company's campaign targeting white monopoly capital has stirred up racial divisions in a country still coming to terms with its past.

Bell Pottinger cut ties with Oakbay Capital three months ago.

#GuptaLeaks: How Bell Pottinger sought to package SA economic message

Despite last week's apology, it is caught up in a web of its own making.

The firm is said to be behind the phrase white monopoly capital and its social media campaign has stoked racial tensions.

Law Professor James Grant said it is not disputed that the country faces deep economic inequality.

But if Bell Pottinger used social media to cause harm, they can be held accountable.

“In terms of the criminal law where they have abused social media to cause offence, the parties who caused offence will commit crimen injuria... Crime of causing harm to someone’s dignity and if Bell Pottinger and individual employees who were driving force would be guilty of that offence or offences,” Grant said.

The PR company has already suspended several employees and fired the partner orchestrating the campaign.

But their troubles are far from over. The DA has laid formal complaints against the firm with two British PR associations.

The ANC has also lashed out at the firm.

READ: PR firm Bell Pottinger breaks it off with Oakbay

“Vultures such as Bell Pottinger must not be given space to further polarise our nation, therefore we must not fail our national agenda and our vision of building a non-racial South Africa. We must not fail because vultures like Bell Pottinger would scavenge on our failures, we must deracialise our economy. we must continue to address inequality and (not) reverse the gains we have made since 1994,” said ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa.

The ANC says it won’t be launching an investigation.

Leaked Gupta emails suggest the company assisted the MK Military Veterans and the ANC Youth League in their campaigns to discredit President Jacob Zuma and Gupta critics.

“ANC knows no knowledge of the company called Bell Pottinger, we have no relation, there has never been any service given to the ANC or any request from ANC to assist us,” Kodwa said.