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Johannesburg - The ANCYL criticised First National Bank's “You Can Help Campaign” on Monday as “treacherous”.

It features children reading their hopes for the country.

“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',” African National Congress Youth League 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 Democratic Alliance used in a past election.

The ANCYL called on South Africans to close ranks against the “treacherous attack” on South Africa, and said it was disingenuous of FNB to try to be a messiah instead of finding solutions to the country's problems.

It wanted the bank's board and employees to distance themselves from the videos and for “harsh action” to be taken against its CEO Michael Jordaan.

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 Young Communist League said it was “utterly disgusted”. It said the advertisements were meant to derail the “second transition”.

It called on the bank to retract the advertisements.

“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