Johannesburg - There was mixed reaction from political parties on Monday to First National Bank's “You Can Help Campaign”.
It features children reading their hopes for the country.
“This isn’t an advert - it's a political statement. An attack on the president, his ministers and government as a whole,” African National Congress spokesman Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian.
The ANC Youth League called the campaign “treacherous”.
“FNB, in an obviously lame attempt to recreate an Arab Spring of some sort in South Africa, uses children to make unproven claims of a 'government rife with corruption',” spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said in a statement.
“Business as a whole has more than enough platforms from which to raise any issues with the ANC government, and this they have been doing. There is no basis for such insults and treasonous attacks on our government.”
She said the bank was encouraging children to disrespect their elders and defame the basic education minister, and likened the advertisement to the “fight back” slogan the DA used in a past election.
The Democratic Alliance said the ANC and its Youth League's objections were reminiscent of apartheid censorship.
“One can only surmise that the ANC felt threatened by the school girl’s references to greed, corruption, crime and illiteracy,” DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.
“It is most ironic that the ANC would brand this commercial an attack on anyone, since the advert actually calls on South Africans to unite for a better future.”
Maimane thought the advert was inspirational and positive.
FNB said: “The allegations of treason are particularly tasteless and we strongly deny that FNB has acted in any manner which gives rise to such malicious allegations.”
Its intentions were 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”.
It believed the country's children had an important voice and were critical to the country’s success.
“Every interview was unscripted and uncensored. They are very much 'from the heart' of each child speaking.”
It was not the company's intention to attack government or the ANC, but to call on South Africans to help create a better country.
The SA Communist Party said the advert was a “regime change” agitation.
“The SACP strongly condemns this action as highly irresponsible, reckless and unbecoming of any institution calling itself a bank,” spokesman Malesela Maleka said in a statement.
The Young Communist League was “utterly disgusted”. It said the advertisements were meant to derail the “second transition”. It called on the bank to retract them.
“If the bank does not accede to our demand we will call on all democracy-loving South Africans to boycott it,” spokesman Khaya Xaba said. - Sapa