12/06/2017 19:47 BST | Updated 12/06/2017 19:47 BST

Bell Pottinger Was Paid R9.6M To Promote South Africa Abroad

They did the work at the same time as working for the Guptas.

A View of Cape Town's Green Point Stadium with Table Mountain in the background

Government entity SA Tourism spent R9.6m on a contract with controversial UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger to promote South Africa's image abroad.

While under this contract, the company did work for the Guptas.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa revealed this on Monday, in reply to a parliamentary question from the DA.

"Bell Pottinger LLP was appointed by the SA Tourism UK Office for a period of 3 years, effective 1 January 2014 following an open tender process in the UK. The services were for Public Relations including Digital PR and Online Communications to complement and align to existing media buying, events and social media services in order to complete a 360°consumer and trade engagement," reads the answer.

The UK tender had been reissued and a new service provider would begin on July 1.

The contract was procured at R8 611 281, but in the end R 9 600 858 was paid due to currency fluctuations.

Bell Pottinger was one of 13 PR agencies SA Tourism used between April 2016 and May 2017. The amount paid to Bell Pottinger was the highest. Just over R40m was spent on PR agencies.

Bell Pottinger cut ties with the Guptas' company Oakbay in April.

DA MP James Vos said it was a disgraceful conflict of interest for Bell Pottinger to be on the government's payroll while the Gupta family was using it to "sow racial division" in the country.

"No ethical firm could accept business to both advance and damage a country at the same time."

Vos said he would write to the tourism committee's chairperson, Beatrice Ngcobo, to ask her to call Xasa to justify the amount spent on Bell Pottinger and to table the full contract with the company.

In December 2016, South African businessman Johann Rupert revealed that Bell Pottinger was behind a campaign linking him to white-owned monopoly capital and state capture. He cut his business ties of 20 years with the company.

Last week, it emerged how Bell Pottinger's Victoria Geoghegan met President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane to devise a campaign aimed at selling a "narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots population who must identify with it, connect with it and feel united by it".

This was part of attempts to counter revelations in thousands of emails leaked from the Gupta family, which expose their alleged interference in government and state-owned entities in order to promote their business interests.