Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: GCIS
Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: GCIS

THE UK public relations (PR) firm, Bell Pottinger, has confirmed that it was "made aware of" recommendations that an inquiry be instituted into SA’s banks before it was announced by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Earlier this month, Zwane announced that the Cabinet had decided to investigate the conduct of banks that had closed accounts belonging to Gupta family businesses and that it would also hold banking regulators to account for the decision.

Zwane’s statement was strongly denied by the Presidency. Demands that he be "disciplined" for his statement have since been made.

Fin24 reported on Thursday that "Bell Pottinger, the Guptas’ UK-based spin doctors, was in possession of Zwane’s ‘findings’ as early as July 15 when they tried to leak a copy of the document to the media".

The web article went on to say: "The firm further recommended that Fin24 speak directly to Zwane and provided … contact details for the minister."

The PR firm commented as follows on the story:

"There has been significant media coverage of the closure of Oakbay’s bank accounts. Oakbay has supported the IMC’s [inter-ministerial committee’s] recommendation for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the banks as it believes this would provide the big four banks with an ideal opportunity to reveal the reasons for the account closures. Oakbay has reached out to a number of politicians on the issue of the banks' unilateral closure of their accounts, including Pravin Gordhan, and believes justice needs to be done.

"Bell Pottinger has encountered widespread sympathy for the way Oakbay has been treated and did not seek to obtain this information, but was made aware of it. Given its relevance to the issue of Oakbay’s closed accounts, the public interest and the ongoing media coverage of the story, Bell Pottinger contacted Fin24/News24 to put the information into the public domain.

"It is no secret that Bell Pottinger has advised Oakbay Investments on its corporate communications since March this year. Bell Pottinger abides by strict professional ethics. Its source was not the Gupta family, as News24 implies, and Bell Pottinger has never met with or spoken to Minister Zwane or any of his advisors."

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