People power: PR firm Bell Pottinger forced to lock tweets after SA backlash

JOHANNESBURG — Many of us in South Africa would love to be a fly on the wall in Bell Pottinger’s UK head office right now, especially amid the recent controversies the company has had to deal with. After being paid huge sums of money to represent the controversial Guptas and push a ‘white monopoly capital’ agenda, the company ditched the family’s Oakbay business earlier this year. Bell Pottinger probably thought they would have a clean exit from the Guptas- but it’s been anything but that. On Twitter, thousands of South Africans have taken to tweeting at the company at a non-stop pace. Subsequently, Bell Pottinger has now locked its Twitter account and protected its tweets. Ironically, it looks as if Bell Pottinger needs its own PR firm to get out of the mess it created for itself. – Gareth van Zyl

By Kyle Venktess, Fin24

Johannesburg – Anyone who wants to follow UK public relations agency Bell Pottinger – which acted as communications adviser for the Gupta family – on Twitter, will now have to request permission.

The company, with its headquarters in London, locked its Twitter account after South Africans mocked and replied to tweets even when posts were related to the UK.

The agency’s managing director James Thomlinson also appeared to have locked his Twitter account.

#GuptaLeaks. More of Zapiro’s magic available on his website

Bell Pottinger received even further backlash from locals after the account was locked, with users mocking the company for the irony of being a communications company which “did not want to communicate”.

“For the last year we have been working to help Oakbay defend itself from attacks on its reputation, correcting misrepresentations and defending it and its owners from politically motivated attacks,” the company previously said in a statement.

The company stepped down as the Gupta-owned Oakbay’s public relations firm in April and was believed to have driven a social media campaign to try and divert attention from the Gupta family’s alleged involvement in state capture by emphasising the role so-called white monopoly capital plays in South Africa’s economy.

“In all our work for Oakbay we have seen no evidence of wrongdoing,” Bell Pottinger previously said in an emailed statement to Fin24.

Bell Pottinger said it was forced to step down as the company’s communications adviser because it has been the subject of a smear campaign, with certain of its partners and staff coming under attack.

“It is, therefore, with regret that we have suggested to Oakbay, and have mutually agreed with them, that we will step down from our role as communications advisers with immediate effect,” the company previously said.


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