JB’s UK PR firm Bell Pottinger is‘Devil’s representative’

A London-based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger which Malawi President Joyce Banda has engaged for reputation management in the wake of the cashgate scandal, is regarded as ‘The devil’s representative worldwide’

Banda hired Bell Pottinger to boost her image in the eyes of the international community  as Malawi has been rocked by widespread corruption, losing millions of funds to theft by mostly ruling People’s Party officials and some civil servants which the government blames on financial loopholes. The donors have since withheld their budgetary support.

Bell Pottinger criticised for working for the governments with bad human rights record, is regarded as one of the world’s top PR agencies and regularly appears at number one in PR Week’s annual rankings.

The UK-based firm, founded by a former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claims that its staff “are leaders in their fields and have the skills and experience to use any medium and reach any audience anywhere in the world”.

Lord Bell, founder of Bell Pottinger

Human rights activist Billy Mayaya accused President Banda of “reputation laundering”, warning that  PR deal is a  scandal waiting to happen.

Mayaya said it was unnecessary for government to resort into reputation management other than reforms and getting to recover the wealth plundered as well as prosecuting the culprits not in any selective manner as suspected to be the case now.

“The decision to hire a PR firm is indicative of the following: the sheer desperation within the PP to salvage what little is left in its damaged image. Secondly to use taxpayer’s money to throw at a PR firm is not only insulting but a clear sign that the President has lost touch reality. She is showing all the traits of detachment,” Mayaya told Nyasa Times in an interview.

Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) expressed anger over the deal, claiming the taxpayers have already paid out about 250 000 euros (over K130 million) for the deal.

“DF has learnt with shock that government had decided to pay UK public relations firm to help downplay President Joyce Banda administration’s alleged involvement in the cashgate,” UDF spokesman Ken Ndanga was quoted by The Nation.

“In our view, this money can better be used to track down the lost public funds. The ACB needs this money to effectively conduct investigations. It shows that the President is more concerned with exonerating her government than getting to the bottom of this crisis,” UDF spokesman added.

But the Presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane claimed that there will be no charge to the Malawian taxpayer.

But Britain’s broadsheet newspaper, The Daily Telegraph exposed that a charitable foundation linked to an African arms company Paramount Group whose director  – Eric Ichikowitz- is running a reputation management campaign for Banda after the Malawi leader  commissioned seven interceptor boats from Paramount which will be fitted with arms to patrol Lake Malawi.

President Banda has also committed to paying for Paramount to provide training and maintenance for the boats over the next five years, as well as potentially buying other, larger boats from the company.

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