Fri, 16 May 2008 19:33:00 +0000
PUBLIC relations and media work meant to spruce up the image of Movement for Democratic Change's leader in preparation for the presidency is being handled by a British-American company, the Zimbabwe Guardian can reveal.
Executives of the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard have been working with the leader of the MDC-T to him spruce up his image in line for the top job and polish up the MDC-T party’s brand.
Fleishman-Hillard Fleishman-Hillard is one of the largest public relations companies in the world with a global network of offices in the United States, London, Johannesburg, among others. It is owned by Omnicom, the world’s third-largest advertising conglomerate serving some of the world’s leading brands, including Castle Lager (SABMiller), De Beers, and Old Mutual in South Africa; among others.
The company works closely with the UK and US government handling PR contracts. In 2005, they spearheaded work on UK ‘Identity Cards’ which lobbyists and pressure groups say could infringe asylum seekers' civil rights.
Officials from Fleishman-Hillard recently spent several weeks in South Africa to help the MDC-T party and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai to communicate their points of view to the international media.
According to sources, Kevin Bell, Fleishman-Hillard’s president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and David Hart and a new employee of the firm, Guto Harri, the BBC’s former political correspondent who joined the PR firm at the beginning of the year, were assigned to the MDC-T leader.
The three men accompanied Tsvangirai in his trip around southern Africa in mid-April and to the extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit on the post-election situation in Zimbabwe called by Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa.
Harri spent four weeks in South Africa and Botswana with MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai, helping him spruce up his image and teaching him media relations skills, an experience he described as “a real rollercoaster of an experience.”
According to Africa Intelligence, Fleishman-Hillard’s president for Europe handled Tsvangirai’s briefing work with the BBC and submitted releases to international press correspondents on behalf of the MDC-T party.
Bell, who is considered ‘a top political publicist’ also handled BBC interviews for Tsvangirai. He has also issued a multitude of press releases and statements often quoted by the BBC, predicting President Mugabe’s demise.
In one of the press releases, entitled, “Zimbabwe's Limbo Is South Africa's Hope” and issued on April 2, 2008 Bell says: “Mugabe’s government is creaking under the weight of the inevitable. In the short term there is certainly potential for increased instability, but in the long term it can only be a good thing for everyone with an interest in the country. Reestablishing a vibrant business relationship with Zimbabwe has long been a dream for all …, and may become a reality sooner than we think.”
Fleishman-Hillard’s South Africa branch, headed by Kevin Welman, also participated in the MDC-T’s political lobby campaign, according to the publication.
Welman is the ‘guy’ now known for the famous line, “a legitimate victory by Robert Mugabe now looks impossible, if indeed it ever was possible.”
The MDC-T leader addressed the 55th Congress of Liberal International (LI) this morning. A resolution in 2007 by LI concluded that Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF party “one big hurdle” that stood in the way of opposition political parties in Africa.