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JOHANNESBURG — It’s been a tumultuous week for Bell Pottinger and if reports about the business going into administration are true, there will be no more Bell Pottinger by Monday. The company is likely to go down in history as an example of how not to do business. The ejection of Bell Potts from the PRCA will also probably be made a case study for years to come. And it all comes down to that nasty Gupta curse. The question now is whether South African law enforcement agents will finally start taking action against the Zuptas. – Gareth van Zyl
By Mmusi Maimane*
Accountability prevailed this week, when the DA achieved a successful prosecution on an issue we are passionate about. Following the complaint we laid with the Public Relations and Communications Association, UK-based Bell Pottinger has been thoroughly held to account for its central role in the Zupta state capture project.
The Guptas and Duduzane Zuma contracted Bell Pottinger, one of the largest and best known PR firms in Europe, to sow racial hatred and division in South Africa in order to deflect attention from their own looting, by creating a fictitious enemy known as “white minority capital” and by winning popular support for a programme of “radical economic transformation”, a fig leaf for policies designed to facilitate further looting of the state.
Through this campaign, Bell Pottinger has done tremendous damage to South Africa, not only by facilitating the ongoing theft of billions of rands of public money that should be spent on SA’s poor, but by damaging SA’s fragile race relations and unsettling our democracy. In justifying Bell Pottinger’s expulsion from the industry body, UK head of the PRCA, Francis Ingham claimed that Bell Pottinger’s work for the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma “was the worst piece of unethical PR work” he’d seen his ten year tenure.
The expulsion is a massive blow, from which Bell Pottinger it is unlikely ever to recover. This sends a loud and clear message to other firms, that unethical dealings with corrupt individuals and firms will not be tolerated. Holding anti-social behaviour to account is what functional societies do in order to maintain the social contract and promote the public good. This is why adherence to the rule of law is a key determinant of why nations thrive or fail.
So it is a huge indictment on South Africa that not a single state capture related arrest has been made, despite thousands of incriminating emails providing incontrovertible evidence of the Gupta and Zuma families’ coordinated programme to loot the state. On the contrary, the ANC is actively pursuing those within its own ranks who have had the courage to speak out against state capture.
The DA has laid formal charges against all the key known perpetrators of state capture. But the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority have done nothing at all, because they themselves are captured, being led by Zuma cronies.
Unfortunately, the NPA is vulnerable to political interference, a grave oversight by the writers of our Constitution. The head of the NPA, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), is appointed directly by the President. So the NPA is unlikely ever to play its central role in preventing Big Man politics from taking hold in SA. Parliament has no part whatsoever in the appointment.
To protect our democracy, we need to build more independence for the NDPP and for the NPA as a whole. The DA supports a constitutional amendment that would make Parliament responsible for the NDPP appointment, in the same way it is responsible for the appointment of the heads of the Chapter 9 institutions. As per section 179 (4) of the Constitution, the NPA must be able to function without fear, favour or prejudice. SA’s recent history makes it clear that the NPA needs to be independent from the executive.
And our entire history makes it clear that South Africa as a whole will never prosper under a nationalist, race-based political order. Bell Pottinger and the Zuptas are not the only ones sowing racial division and attempting to polarize society here in South Africa. There are plenty others too, and we need to reject them in the same way we have rejected Bell Pottinger.
Both Afrikaner nationalism and African nationalism have failed South Africa. The DA’s project is to move beyond group-based politics, to achieve a society in which we are united by shared values rather than shared identities, and are thus more resilient to the likes of Bell Pottinger, who pursue a “divide to conquer” strategy.
South Africans are better together, and non-racialism is another value, together with institutional independence, accountability and the rule of law, that will underpin our success as a nation. That’s why the real victory in the Bell Pottinger matter is that going forward, South Africans will be more sensitive to being crassly manipulated by all hate and division mongers, whether here or abroad. SA needs to reject extractive, racist politics in favour of inclusive politics based on the equal rights of individual citizens. The DA is leading that move.
- Mmusi Maimane is the leader of the Democratic Alliance.
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