Johannesburg - Posting its research interview clippings featuring children discussing their hopes and concerns for South Africa online was regrettable but its “You Can Help” campaign was meant to inspire all South Africans to work together by helping one another.

That’s the thrust of the apology by First National Bank (FNB) to the ANC after a meeting yesterday between the bank and the leadership of the ANC, led by Gwede Mantashe, its secretary-general.

“FNB confirms that the meeting held today with the ANC provided for constructive, robust and honest dialogue between both parties,” it said. “The chief executive of FirstRand, Sizwe Nxasana, refuted the suggestion that FNB’s intention was to attack the ANC and government and reiterated the positive objectives of the campaign.

“We apologised for the posting of the research interview clippings online, however we are pleased that the ANC has expressed its support for the overall FNB ‘You Can Help’ campaign.”

The FNB ad campaign featured schoolchildren discussing their hopes and worries about South Africa.

“The country is being overrun by poverty… while President Jacob Zuma is renovating his home,” said one KZN youngster. Another from the province, said: “We must not depend on our leaders. Each person must become their own hero.”

The campaign, which was promoted through a TV advert, which the bank subsequently withdrew, garnered an immediate backlash from the ANC who branded it as “an undisguised political statement that makes random and untested accusations against our government”.

Yesterday, a survey by Pondering Panda, conducted in the wake of the controversy, revealed that most young people supported speaking out against government wrongdoing. “About 54 percent said it was the right of every citizen to be vocal in this regard. At least 35 percent said the government was making SA’s problems worse. About 20 percent felt that voicing criticism of the government amounted to an attack on democracy,” revealed the consumer survey firm.

The ANC said yesterday: “Mr Sizwe Nxasana agreed that the research clippings that were posted online were regrettable. He then assured the meeting that this regrettable incident will not be repeated.”

“During the meeting, the ANC pointed out that the video clips were a deliberate attack on the ANC. The clips fed into the opposition narrative that sought to project the ANC and government in a negative manner, the party said, adding the clips could undermine the promotion of investment into the country.

Saturday Star