The CEO of Bell Pottinger, James Henderson, stepped down from his role as head of the well known UK PR firm over the weekend, ahead of today’s imminent publishing of an investigation into the firm by Herbert Smith Freehills.
Last month another four Bell Pottinger employees were dismissed or suspended. Herbert Smith Freehills were appointed to investigate the company following the Gupta debacle in which the PR firm was accused of stirring up racial tensions in South Africa with a social media campaign.
Henderson did issue an unequivocal apology last month. The campaign allegedly used fake accounts to distract attention from the wealthy Indian family (accused of holding the South African state to capture) by inventing stories about “white monopoly capital” opponents.
The DA’s National Spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme, said his decision now to relinquish his role as Bell Pottinger CEO should not be seen as an act of valour.
“He owns 40% of the public relations firm and remains a majority shareholder,” she said in a statement.
“If Henderson had truly appreciated the implications of their propaganda in South Africa, he would repay the £1 200 000 (approximately R20 million) it earned from the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, for the benefit of South Africa as the DA requested.
“Full disclosure of the nature of the contract it entered into with Zuma and the Guptas would have demonstrated goodwill and willingness to begin to repair the damage their work caused to South Africa.
“In addition, Henderson is on record stating that he would publicly release the report by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP3, the law firm hired by Bell Pottinger to audit the Gupta account, by the end of August.
“August has ended and no report has been released. Instead, we receive news of his resignation, a move no doubt, designed to appease. The DA is not appeased.
“On Tuesday morning, following a complaint lodged by the DA, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) will release its findings on Bell Pottinger’s contract for the Gupta-owned Oakay capital.
“We trust that a tough sanction will be handed down to send a message to the entire PR industry that the sort of behaviour engaged in by Bell Pottinger, will not be tolerated.”