NEWS

Bell Pottinger Denies Trying To Stir Racial Tensions In SA On Behalf Of The Guptas

We were naive at worst, said the PR firm's James Henderson.

02/08/2017 17:02 SAST | Updated 03/08/2017 06:05 SAST

The notorious British PR firm Bell Pottinger believes investigations into its work for the Gupta family will reveal that the company handled the account "in a responsible way".

Bell Pottinger is facing a disciplinary hearing by the Public Relations and Communications Association in the United Kingdom, following a complaint by the Democratic Alliance that it sowed racial divisions in South Africa. It's also appointed a law firm to audit the work it did for the Guptas in South Africa.

As part of a BBC Radio 4 report on Tuesday the company's CEO, James Henderson, said in an interview that at worst, the company was "very naive".

"At worst, we were very naive in what we got involved with, but there was, at any point, no intention to create the impact that is claimed we created. We went out predominantly with a corporate campaign, trying to handle an issue in a responsible way and I believe that will come out," Henderson said.

"However, I believe there was naivety and that we were involved in a very political situation... We clearly take huge concern of this which is why we commissioned a report to look into every email and every document that was produced. The proposals I saw on this issue looked corporately responsible. They did not fuel racial tension or have an intention to do so."

The company, which was contracted by the Gupta-owned Oakbay, is accused of generating fake news and social media on behalf of the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma around messages including a white monopoly capital agenda, as well as trying to discredit individual journalists and politicians. The eventual aim was to take attention away from state capture, it's claimed.

Read: Atul Gupta: Leaked State Capture Emails Are 'Not Authentic'

The company last month apologized, saying there was a social media campaign that highlights the issue of economic emancipation in a way that the company considers to be "inappropriate and offensive".

Read: How Bell Pottinger's Gupta Campaign Damaged South Africa

"We have allowed ourselves to become the story, but the actions we've been accused of, in time, I hope it will come out that we did not do that. We have been called guilty before any real evidence has been shown of what we did do," Henderson said.