Zimbabwe Backlash: Shamed firms blame poor PR

Multinational companies named and shamed in the media this week for their continued presence in Zimbabwe have admitted their PR campaigns were not proactive enough.

Mugabe Regime has led to some companies leaving the country
Mugabe Regime has led to some companies leaving the country

Mining giant Anglo American is one of a host of UK-based companies being pressured by the Western media, government leaders and charities to abandon their dealings in Zimbabwe following Robert Mugabe's sham election.

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The firm has been criticised over its plans to develop a platinum mine in Zimbabwe.
Anglo American spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby adm­itted the firm had failed to communicate with the media before the backlash began, leaving the British press to speculate on whether the company's dealings in Zimbabwe were above board.

‘There is a misunderstanding, and it is probably our fault,' he said. ‘There is a perception that companies being targeted have not been keeping the British Government up to speed on our Zimbabwe work. This is not the case.'

Fellow mining outfit Rio Tinto has also found itself in the headlines. Press officer Nick Cobban said the comp­any, which employs 250 Zimbabweans at a small diamond mine, had only been effective ‘up to a point' in its efforts, saying it had no proactive campaign to repair its reputation.

Standard Chartered Bank has also attracted negative coverage but the bank's head of media relations Arijit De said: ‘The media need to be a bit more balanced on the Zimbabwe issue. We have a res­ponsibility not just to our 860 staff, but to their families and relations who depend on them and us for livelihood.

This is something we are trying to communicate to the media.' Barclays has attracted arguably the greatest controversy for its Zimbabwean operations as it owns two-thirds of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe.

The bank's global media rel­ations manager Phillippa Vermoter could not be reached for comment as PRWeek went to press.

This week, Tesco announced it would stop sourcing products from Zimbabwe while ‘the pol­itical crisis persists'. The retail giant buys about £1m worth of goods a year from Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, The Independent on Sunday recently revealed that shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve heads a list of six Tory MPs with sizeable shareholdings in companies accused of propping up Mug­abe's regime.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Still in Zimbabwe
Anglo American
Rio Tinto
Barclays
Standard Chartered
Unilever
Waitrose
SABMiller
British American Tobacco

Companies that recently left
Tesco
WPP

MPs accused of investing in Zimbabwe
Dominic Grieve
Robert Goodwill
Jonathan Djanogly
Tim Boswell


BY THE NUMBERS
£1m Amount Tesco has just pulled out of Zimbabwe
£200m Anglo American's investment in new Zimbabwean mine
10,820 Members of the Fight Mugabe group on Facebook
450 Number of Waitrose workers in Zimbabwe
67% Barclays' share of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe

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