First National Bank ATMs are seen in Eastgate. File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - The Presidency weighed in on FNB’s controversial video campaign on Wednesday‚ expressing disappointment over the “frivolous” advertisements and calling for business to keep focus on constructive responses to SA’s economic challenges.

FNB’s series of online videos were pulled on Monday‚ after the videos - some depicting children in school uniform calling for‚ among other things‚ an end to corruption and people voting for the “same government” while hoping for change - sparked a furore in the ruling African National Congress. The ANC had accused FNB of orchestrating an attack on the party and the government.

Minister in the Presidency for performance‚ monitoring and evaluation Collins Chabane said on Wednesday the focus by business should be on job creation‚ rather than a continuation with “the dangerous campaign of talking the country down during an economic crisis globally”.

“Frivolous adverts which display hatred of government or the ruling party will not help us to achieve the country’s developmental goals‚” read the statement.

Chabane said high level talks on the economy between government‚ labour‚ business and the community sector were ongoing.

“That dialogue is now more urgent given the continuing challenges in the mining sector‚ which have been exacerbated by the announcement by Amplats to put some shafts under care and maintenance‚ leading to the loss of 14‚000 jobs. Those are the issues we should focus our attention on‚ how to hang on to the jobs we have‚ while creating new ones‚” said Mr Chabane.

FNB’s campaign has been attacked by the ANC‚ the ANC Women’s League and Youth League‚ as well as the South African Communist Party. The comments by the ANC and its structures had ranged from the advertisements being “one-sided political statements”‚ to “treasonous”.

FNB maintains the videos were not meant to be critical‚ but aimed at “galvanising the nation into helping to build a stronger‚ unified values-based nation”.

The Democratic Alliance‚ as well as the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI)‚ have both defended the advertisements.

The FXI said in a statement on Tuesday that: “The ANC has a strong majority and its authority in government is not threatened by such adverts. We would call on them to be more tolerant‚ open to criticism and to uphold the spirit of the constitution – which is to promote debate‚ discussion and the free expression of opinion.” - I-Net Bridge