Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane. Picture: ANC MEDIA PIX
Collins Chabane. Picture: GCIS

THE Presidency weighed in on First National Bank’s controversial video advertising campaign on Wednesday, expressing disappointment in the "frivolous" advertisements and calling on business to focus on constructive responses to South Africa’s economic challenges.

FNB’s series of online videos were pulled on Monday after it elicited an angry response from the ruling African National Congress, which accused the bank of orchestrating an attack on the party and the government.

Some of the videos depicted children in school uniform calling for, among other things, an end to corruption and people voting for the "same government" while hoping for change.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said on Wednesday that the focus of business should be on job creation, rather than continuing "the dangerous campaign of talking the country down during an economic crisis globally".

"Frivolous adverts that display hatred of government or the ruling party will not help us achieve the country’s developmental goals," read the statement.

Mr Chabane said high-level talks on the economy between the government, labour, business and the community sector were continuing.

"That dialogue is now more urgent given the continuing challenges in the mining sector, which have been exacerbated by the announcement by Amplats (Anglo American Platinum) 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.

The FNB campaign has come under attack from the ANC, the ANC Women’s League and Youth League, and the South African Communist Party. Comments by the ANC and its structures have described the advertisements as "one-sided political statements" and "treasonous".

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

The Democratic Alliance and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) have defended the advertisements.

The FXI said in a statement on Tuesday: "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."