Watch: Democratic Alliance spokesperson says Bell Pottinger hearing was 'very open'

Phumzile Van Damme, spokesperson of South Africa's Democratic Alliance, has told PRWeek she was "very satisfied" with the PRCA hearing into Bell Pottinger's controversial activities in the country.

Van Damme was interviewed following a Democratic Alliance press conference held outside the agency's London office, which took place shortly after she gave evidence at the PRCA hearing on Friday.

She described the hearing as "very open" and discussed what action she would like to be taken against Bell Pottinger.

Van Damme has been outspoken in her criticism of Bell Pottinger over its work for Oakbay Investments, a conglomerate owned by the Gupta family, close allies of South African president and DA rival Jacob Zuma.

A DA complaint to the PRCA dated 30 June argued Bell Pottinger had breached the trade body's Code of Conduct's provisions on carrying out work "without causing offence" as well as those on the protection of the reputation of the industry and the PRCA itself.

Bell Pottinger last month dismissed partner Victoria Geoghegan and suspended three further staff over "inappropriate and offensive" work conducted for Oakbay.

The PRCA said the hearing concluded at 2.30pm on Friday afternoon.

"The PRCA will make a decision based on the evidence presented at the hearing, and on the recommendation of the Professional Practices Committee," the trade body said in a statement.

What happens now?

The PRCA said there are three broad scenarios for the outcome:

1) If the complaints are not upheld, the committee’s decision will be provided to Bell Pottinger, and the PRCA will publish the decision by 24 August.

2) If the complaints are upheld with disciplinary sanction (for example, warning or reprimand), Bell Pottinger has five working days to appeal. If an appeal is made, the PRCA Board of Management will consider the committee’s report alongside the appeal and will approve, amend, or overrule the committee’s decision. The PRCA will publish the decision on week beginning 4 September.

3) If the complaints are upheld and it’s decided to terminate or suspend PRCA membership, the PRCA Board may approve, amend, or overrule the committee’s decision. Bell Pottinger will have five working days to appeal. Following the appeals period, the PRCA Board of Management may meet again if an appeal has been made and they may approve, amend, or overrule the committee’s decision. The PRCA will publish the decision on week beginning 4 September.

PRWeek understands that an independent report by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, that Bell Pottinger itself commissioned on the work it did for Oakbay, is likely to be published later this month.

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