10/07/2017 12:19 SAST | Updated 10/07/2017 17:02 SAST

34,000 Tweets And Counting --- How SA Twitter Got Bell Pottinger To Apologise

Data scientist Kyle F analysed an overwhelming backlash to the PR company on twitter.
Anti-fracking demonstrators outside the offices of Bell Pottinger in High Holborn in central London, UK.


South Africans, furious at the role British PR firm Bell Pottinger played in stoking racial divisions to support the president and Gupta family, helped bring about their demise in the country through a social media backlash.

That is the finding of data analyst Kyle F, of, who said a deluge of opposition on twitter, forced Bell Pottinger to apologise for its activities in the country. It has emerged these included promoting ideas of white capital and running smear campaigns individual members of the media to divert attention from alleged corruption and state capture.

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

"I've been collecting tweets that mention Bell Pottinger or the Gupta-owned Oakbay account lead, Victoria Geoghegan, for about three weeks now [June 13 to July 5]", he said. "In that time, I collected more than 34,000 tweets. The irony of a PR agency being at the centre of such a massive PR storm is lost on few, I think."

He continued: "South Africans are seething with anger at British PR firm Bell Pottinger for the part that the firm played in creating a racially divisive narrative on behalf of our president and the Gupta family, with whom the president allegedly has a corrupt relationship."

Below is a graph showing the daily volumes collected by Kyle F. "Thousands of tweets have been generated in the past few weeks, which is likely what motivated the company to apologise. This wasn't just going to go away", he said.

Daily tweet volumes mentioning Bell Pottinger or Victoria Geoghegan between June 13 and July 5 2017.

The diversity of the communities reacting on twitter shows the extent of fury about the company's activities in South Africa, he said.

"The kind of sentiment and comments coming out of most communities is overwhelmingly negative with the exception of the usual Radical Economic Transformers [RET] community, which introduced the topic of white monopoly capital to our discourse in the first place, so no surprises there", he said.

Interaction network showing the communities discussing Bell Pottinger. Users are connected together when they retweet or @mention each other and the Louvain Modularity algorithm is used to identify communities in different colours.

He looked at the top 10 most popular ones overall, which are generally scathing of Bell Pottinger's actions and involvement:

Dear gatvol South Africans, @BellPottinger's account is public again if you want to continue the conversation. Or tweet them at @BP_Digital

— Raymond Joseph (@rayjoe) July 1, 2017

VERY IMPORTANT re #BellPottinger. We have heard rumours regarding our actions. These are the TRUE facts. Please RT widely for awareness.

— OUTA (@OUTASA) June 26, 2017

So Bell Pottinger not only drafted press statements for the ANCYL, it also did so for MKMVA. Talk about taking instructions from London!

— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) June 18, 2017

Wikipedia founder attacks Bell Pottinger for 'ethical blindness'

— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) June 24, 2017

Hey @JThomlinson from @BellPottinger, SA would love to hear from you. Open invite to The Money Show. Monday 6pm ZA time?

— Bruce Whitfield (@brucebusiness) June 24, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: We broke @BellPottinger!

We warned y'all, we did. We said " Don't fuck with us, we're South Africans".#CountryDuty

— Maggs Naidu (@maggsnaidu) June 22, 2017

This nice man from Bell Pottinger thought it would be a fun idea to stir up civil war in South Africa ...

— Rand Daily Mail (@rdm_za) July 4, 2017

A list of the Gupta disciples who were working with Bell Pottinger. 😳

— IG: ConceptSixty5 (@Sentletse) June 14, 2017

SA, we may not be allowed to speak to @BellPottinger, but here is their Managing Director: @JThomlinson I'm sure he'd be happy to "Engage"!

— Geordin Hill-Lewis (@geordinhl) June 23, 2017

#BellPottinger guilty of inchoate offences under UK Serious Crime Act 2007 (sec 44 to 46) for their part in running #RacialDivide campaigns

— Trending Crimes SA (@CICArsa) April 11, 2017

In stark contrast to all other communities stands the radical economic transformers community. The top most-engaged-with tweet (although this was likely boosted by fake accounts) was a tweet from the @wmc_leaks account (which has now been suspended):

@wmc_leaks: "No links with Guptas or Bell Pottinger, we only favour truth and Black Empowerment unlike #wmcpaidmedia...." (original URL).

Here are the remaining top tweets in this community, which Kyle F said was a "beguiling mix of legitimate food for thought, biased partisanship and outright racism".

White people give Bell Pottinger too much credit for "creating" a WMC narrative. Nah, they found WMC already here and just exploited it.

— Pieter Howes (@PieterHowes) June 24, 2017

Concept of White Monopoly Capital was coined by SACP in 1962. Long before Bell Pottinger was established

— Pinky Khoabane (@pinkykhoabane) June 28, 2017

Zwelinzima Vavi '05. "Economic power is still in the hands of white monopoly capital. You worked for Bell Pottinger?

— Pinky Khoabane (@pinkykhoabane) June 28, 2017

Johann Ruppet was also a Bell Pottinger client until they got the Guptas on board.

This were all good then 😂😂😂

— RainbowMonopolyCap (@EsethuHasane) June 14, 2017

WMC has been for centuries, and even became official law at one stage. Y'all are out here using David Blaine tactics to divert focus from it

— Pieter Howes (@PieterHowes) June 24, 2017

Did Bell Pottinger write Dr Blade Nzimande's speech in 2007? See last paragraph👇

— Mzwanele Manyi (@MzwaneleManyi) June 29, 2017

No amount of #Faketwitter, #Paidtwitter, "Gupta pawn" , or esp "Bell Pottinger" insults is gonna silence us. U shuld be ashamed not us!

— Sean Mr.G Goss (@GossSgafc) June 21, 2017

White people have been devil's to indigenous people around the planet. We don't need #bellpottinger to tell us who is destroying this planet

— Kirshen (@Kirshen87) June 26, 2017

What if apartheid was also a Bell Pottinger invention?

— Mathisa O Mithise (@mithisa_motho) July 4, 2017

"One narrative is driven by a specific group while the other represents broad-based sentiment across various groups in our society. Now that Bell Pottinger has apologised, it will be very interesting to see how South Africans react," he added.

Read Kyle F's full post here.