FIRST National Bank (FNB) has come out in defence of an advertising campaign that has drawn the anger of the ANC and its allies and been branded a “treacherous attack”.
The ANC Youth League and SACP joined the ANC in slamming the campaign, with the league saying it was “deeply angered and disappointed” by the bank’s “You can help” campaign, launched last week with a series of online videos in which youths share their views about the country.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party was “appalled” by the campaign in which the ANC, its leadership and government were “under attack” in a “commercial masquerading as youth views”.
In one of the videos a participant says: “Stop voting for the same government in hopes for change – instead, change your hopes to a government that has the same hopes as us.”
On Sunday, youth league spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said FNB had failed in trying to “recreate an Arab Spring of some sort in South Africa” and said it “uses children to make unproven claims of a government rife with corruption. We call upon South Africans to close ranks against what is a treacherous attack on our country.”
Mthembu said the campaign was an “undisguised political statement that makes random and untested accusations against our government in the name of discourse. While we believe that people are entitled to their views, we don’t accept that young kids should be used as proxies to articulate political views espoused, as in the case of the FNB advertisement”.
He said the ANC leadership would “engage FNB management to seek a better understanding of the advertisement and its intended objectives”.
In 2007, FNB suspended an anti-crime advertising campaign under pressure from then president Thabo Mbeki.
FNB chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels defended the bank, saying it was “disappointed” with the youth league’s response. She said FNB believed the league’s statement was a “misinterpretation” of the campaign’s intent.
“We also strongly deny that this initiative is a ‘treacherous act’ against the government or the country. Our only intention with the campaign is to provide a platform through which we believe, as South Africans, we can use the power of help to make a positive difference in building a stronger, unified, values-based nation.”
The bank posted links to one of its projects reflecting the views of 1 360 “opinion-leading young South Africans”.
The survey findings state how “70 percent of young South Africans conveyed a sense of hope about the country’s future, regardless of the criticisms stacked against it”.
“We undertook this exercise as we strongly believe that the children of South Africa have an important voice and are critical to the country’s future success. Every interview was unscripted and uncensored – they are very much ‘from the heart’ of each child speaking,” said Samuels.
The bank said individuals across age groups from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape had responded to the survey. “These responses were captured through video recordings and written questionnaires or essays, and represent opinions elicited through either prompted or unprompted formats,” read the report.
Samuels said it was not FNB’s intention to “attack” the government or the ANC but “rather to call on every South African, in a practical and meaningful way, to play their part in helping to create a better South Africa”.
The Young Communist League of SA said it was “utterly disgusted” by the “veiled” attack on the country.
The SACP said it was “incensed by the latest ‘regime change’ agitation in the form of an advert” by the bank.
Spokesman Malesela Maleka said the advert was “nothing but propaganda.