Paid to kill Golden Goose: Bell Pottinger takes SA Tourism money as it strangles South Africa

EDINBURGH — The operators over at London-headquartered public relations firm Bell Pottinger have no scruples when it comes to choosing who they work for. This was evident when Richemont boss Johann Rupert revealed that he was the focus of a politically motivated smear campaign developed by Bell Pottinger’s team – the very people he hired earlier to do his PR work. It also emerged that Bell Pottinger partner Victoria Geoghegan was instrumental in developing a ‘white monopoly capital’ myth to distract the nation from the real economic villains, namely President Jacob Zuma and the corrupt gang running the South African government. All of this dirty work has been at the behest of the Gupta family, with the president’s son Duduzane Zuma negotiating the details with Geoghegan. Highlighted this week is the astonishing scope of Bell Pottinger’s greed. It turns out that Bell Pottinger was hired to sell South Africa to the international community for SA Tourism. Happy to take taxpayers’ money for that contract, Bell Pottinger omitted to declare that it has been actively working against South Africa’s wellbeing and reputation for another client by helping to push the state capture agenda. Although SA Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa says the relationship with Bell Pottinger has ended, that’s not what Bell Pottinger executives think. The controversial PR company has included SA Tourism on a list of its current clients in a brag about a new division it has launched to grow its business (scroll down to see the latest Bell Pottinger press release ‘featured’ on its website). Who is telling a lie? – Jackie Cameron

By Jan Gerber, News24

Cape Town – Government entity SA Tourism spent R9.6m on a contract with controversial UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger to promote South Africa’s image abroad.

While under this contract, the company did work for the Guptas.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa revealed this on Monday, in reply to a parliamentary question from the DA.”Bell Pottinger LLP was appointed by the SA Tourism UK Office for a period of 3 years, effective 1 January 2014 following an open tender process in the UK.

President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa at the 2017 Tourism Indaba.

“The services were for Public Relations including Digital PR and Online Communications to complement and align to existing media buying, events and social media services in order to complete a 360°consumer and trade engagement,” reads the answer. The UK tender had been reissued and a new service provider would begin on July 1. The contract was procured at R8 611 281, but in the end R 9 600 858 was paid due to currency fluctuations.

“Bell Pottinger was one of 13 PR agencies SA Tourism used between April 2016 and May 2017. The amount paid to Bell Pottinger was the highest. Just over R40m was spent on PR agencies. Bell Pottinger cut ties with the Guptas’ company Oakbay in April.

SA Tourism vs Gupta work: ‘Conflict of interest’

DA MP James Vos said it was a disgraceful conflict of interest for Bell Pottinger to be on the government’s payroll while the Gupta family was using it to “sow racial division” in the country.

Victoria Geoghegan, MD: Financial & Corporate at Bell Pottinger

“No ethical firm could accept business to both advance and damage a country at the same time.”

Vos said he would write to the tourism committee’s chairperson, Beatrice Ngcobo, to ask her to call Xasa to justify the amount spent on Bell Pottinger and to table the full contract with the company.

In December 2016, South African businessman Johann Rupert revealed that Bell Pottinger was behind a campaign linking him to white-owned monopoly capital and state capture. He cut his business ties of 20 years with the company.

Last week, it emerged how Bell Pottinger’s Victoria Geoghegan met President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane to devise a campaign aimed at selling a “narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it and feel united by it”.

This was part of attempts to counter revelations in thousands of emails leaked from the Gupta family, which expose their alleged interference in government and state-owned entities in order to promote their business interests.


SA Tourism
Who is telling a lie? SA Tourism says Bell Pottinger is no longer working for it, yet Bell Pottinger brags about SA Tourism being among its current clients in its very latest ‘featured’ press release. This screenshot was taken on 14 June 2017.

Bell Pottinger reveals it is still on the SA Tourism payroll – on its website:

Bell Pottinger launches new ‘Engage’ practice at 2017 trends event focused on ‘The New Rules of Engagement’

Bell Pottinger has today launched a new practice focused on tackling some of the most pressing business challenges facing brands in today’s communications environment.

Bringing together its corporate, brand, consumer, digital and design teams, the company has created Engage by Bell Pottinger, a new integrated practice focused on providing consultancy, campaigns and content to its clients.

The integrated offer was unveiled today at an event for senior marketing and communications professionals, sharing insights on the ‘new rules of engagement’ that will help brands tackle challenges, such as ‘hyper-fragmentation’ and an ‘on-demand’ consumer culture.

Led by Managing Directors Hugh Taggart and James Thomlinson, the 70-strong practice already works with clients including South African Tourism, HSBC, Amazon, Panasonic, Hitachi, HAYS, Ripple, Huawei and PayPoint.

Hugh Taggart, Managing Director of Engage by Bell Pottinger, said: “Events of the last few years have drawn a line through many of the assumptions that marketers have worked on to date. With a new year starting, we wanted to re-write the rulebook and reshape our offer to support brands through an era of rapid change, shifting consumer expectations and increasingly complex audiences.”

With a multi-skilled team comprising creatives, content creators, digital specialists, campaign planners and former national journalists, Engage by Bell Pottinger offers clients access to insights, creativity and innovation, while retaining excellence in managing reputations.

It will also provide access to the group’s wider portfolio of communications expertise, including financial, political and litigation support services.

James Thomlinson, Managing Director of Engage by Bell Pottinger, said: “Engage has been designed with clients, for clients – reflecting the challenges and pressures we share with them every day. This new practice is not just about changing who sits where and works with whom, it’s about putting a new philosophy and approach to communications at the heart of what we do – powering insight-driven, content-led campaigns that change the behaviour of influencers across every medium.”

More on Bell Pottinger and Victoria Geoghegan here:

1. MUST READ: Evil mastermind Victoria Geoghegan: How does she sleep at night? #GuptaLeaks

It has taken only a few years for Geoghegan and her associates to help bring South Africa to its knees – all in the name of personal hubris. Bell Pottinger suggested an initial monthly fee of £100 000 (roughly R1.5m), the #Guptaleaks reveal. There is no way to put it nicely: Victoria Geoghegan represents all that is rotten with the public relations industry and public companies fuelled by short-term shareholder greed. It is hard to imagine a more evil operation than Bell Pottinger. Read more.

2. Bell Pottinger white monopoly capital plot: Damning EVIDENCE of Gupta conspiracy #GuptaLeaks

It is ironic that a white monopoly capital firm – the London-headquartered Bell Pottinger– was hired by a Gupta entity to orchestrate a campaign to create the monster of white monopoly capital in South Africa. There have been suspicions and allegations that Bell Pottinger put together a devious strategy to defend the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma by painting them as victims of greedy white racists. Teams of journalists sifting through a massive bank of leaked emails linked to the involvement of the Gupta family in South African government and business have now uncovered evidence that Bell Pottinger also had a hand in propaganda put out by the ANC’s MK and Youth League divisions. Helping to conduct the campaign was Nazeem Howa, a former journalist who moved on to work for the Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments. Read more.

3. Doing Daddy’s dirty work: Duduzane Zuma is Jacob Zuma’s right-hand man – #GuptaLeaks

President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma is a key figure in the #Zupta campaign to siphon funds out of state coffers. This is apparent as the investigative teams at amaBhungane and Scorpiomake sense of correspondence contained in the most sensational information leak South Africa has possibly ever seen. The emails, dubbed #GuptaLeaks, contain evidence that prove allegations that President Jacob Zuma has allowed an immigrant family to pull the levers of political power and raid state coffers. Zuma’s son has been working directly with the Gupta family, using the Zuma name to further Gupta interests and living the life of a rich person as the benefits flow back to him. International money-laundering and tax evasion are in the mix as are hints that President Zuma has been making moves to live elsewhereRead more.

4. News ‘prostitute’ Bell Pottinger’s Victoria Geoghegan has ‘sold her soul’: Mailbox – #GuptaLeaks

South Africans are sickened to the core to learn that Victoria Geoghegan, the creative mastermind behind the ‘white monopoly capital’ narrative and smear campaigns targeting President Jacob Zuma’s critics, was promoted by her firm. London-based Bell Pottinger has shrugged off criticism that its strategy to heighten racial tension and sow division in order to further corrupt Gupta interests is anything other than a case of “all in a day’s work”. The Public Relations (PR) firm went a step further by appointing Geoghegan to managing director of the agency’s financial and corporate division. Read more.

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