20 July COMMENT: EDINBURGH — It doesn’t get much lower than stirring up racial animosity in the country with the legacy of apartheid hanging around its neck. South African society is riven with tension. After Nelson Mandela, emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others ensured a relatively peaceful transition to democracy, all the hard work has been rapidly undone. Villains in the state capture narrative include Bell Pottinger, a company paid generously to develop an anti-white propaganda campaign. Bell Pottinger’s Victoria Geoghegan has liaised with President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, who was hired by the Gupta family. In a report by the investigative reporters at amaBhungane, the involvement of Bell Pottinger in helping ANC organisations develop and deliver a false white monopoly capital myth is explored. – Jackie Cameron
The London-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger is at the centre of a public campaign to drum up support for President Jacob Zuma and his friends by promoting the myth that the South African economy is largely in white hands.
The #GuptaLeaks reveal that the Zupta account has been so lucrative for Bell Pottinger that it sent an invoice for just under £350 000 (about R5,5m), for a four-day trip that included a suggested speech for Collen Maine of the ANC Youth League and a statement for the MK Veterans Association.
This amount allegedly excludes the monthly £100 000 (about R1,5m) retainer to secure the services of Victoria Geoghegan and team to drive a wedge between racial groups in South Africa in the name of preserving the self-enrichment strategy.
Ultimately this bill is being footed by South African taxpayers, as the Guptas have undertaken a wide-ranging strategy – including pulling the levers of political power – to siphon funds from state entities.
Aside from the enormous fees being ratcheted up for propaganda purposes, this latest revelation from amaBhungane also underscores that the ANC Youth League and MK Veterans Association have been “caught and captured” by the Gupta family.
The investigative team at amaBhungane highlight a number of developments in the role of Bell Pottinger, as they continue to work through a data bank of thousands of emails leaked from the Gupta empire, including that:
- A month after UK-based PR firm Bell Pottinger’s Financial and Corporate partner Victoria Geoghegan billed a Dubai-based company, part-owned by Gupta family lieutenant, Salim Essa, £100,000 for a consultation with President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma, the political spin doctors made a second trip to South Africa.
- They charged £340,086 for a four-day trip which included a suggested speech for Collen Maine for the ANCYL’s National Rally on 7 February 2016 in Tshwane.
- Bell Pottinger composed a statement for the MK Veterans Association and suggested the firm might like to add to a statement by ANC North West Chair, Supra Mahumapelo, with regard to EFF leader Julius Malema’s threats to ban ANN7 journalists.
- Six members of the Bell Pottinger team flew into Johannesburg from London between February 3 and February 7 2016 on a four-day “boot camp” to assist Gupta family businesses, the ANCYL, as well as Kebby Maphatsoe’s MK Veterans Association to communicate a narrative about the country’s economy from Oakbay’s perspective,” says amaBhungane.
- On February 6, 2016, a release by Mondli Mkhize, National Spokesperson for the ANCYL, with regard to a national rally that was due to take place on February 7 in Tshwane, was forwarded to the Bell Pottinger team.
- On the same day Victoria Geoghegan thanks the team for forwarding the notice, adding, “Are we able to supply points for the ANCYL leader? Can you find out from Mondli which journalists they are expecting to attend/report on the march?”
- Later the same day, Geoghegan sent an email to the Bell Pottinger team as well as Gupta associates, including Oakbay CEO, Nazeem Howa, and Sahara Computers head of sales and marketing, Santosh Choubey, stating, “Please see below suggested content for ANCYL leader. This is deliberately short to ensure a clear message and soundbites for media.”
What R5.5m gets you in propaganda: The ‘suggested’ Bell Pottinger content
The “suggested content”, says amaBhungane, read:
“Apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, however, since then South Africans continue to suffer from extreme poverty. In fact, inequality in South Africa is greater today than at the end of apartheid:
• Economic control has remained in the hands of a minority of privileged and powerful individuals and families.
• 60%-65% of South Africa’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of just 10% of the population, this compared with 50%-55% in Brazil, and 40%-45% in the US (Thomas Piketty – Soweto, October 2015)
• The 2 richest people in South Africa own the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the population (Oxfam global inequality report – October 2014). This means that the poorest people in South Africa remain significantly disadvantaged and are unable to work their way to better lives.
• In South Africa, a platinum miner would have to work for 93 years to earn the annual bonus of an average CEO (Oxfam global inequality report – October 2014)It is clear that this system needs to be ended once and for all and for inequality to be properly addressed. Talent and hard work need to be recognised and rewarded and profits shared. The privilege of the few needs to be replaced with opportunity for all.
We need to END ECONOMIC APARTHEID.”
Also fascinating in the leaks is how Victoria Geoghegan upped the ante against the Economic Freedom Fighters, by editing the work of Nazeem Howa – a former editor.
In the end, says amaBhungane, the statement (with Geoghegan’s additions in red) that was sent out on behalf of MKVA read:
*A request by the Daily Maverick to Geoghegan for an interview with regard to these as well as other revelations in the leaked emails has remained unanswered. Read the full amaBhungane article here.
For more on the #GuptaLeaks see:
Exclusive video footage obtained by News24 shows how current and former cricket stars such as Makhaya Ntini, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith were paraded around Saharanpur. Read more.
More on Bell Pottinger and Victoria Geoghegan:
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.
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.
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 elsewhere. Read more.
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.
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. Read more.