Here is a more in-depth look at some of the articles covered in the February 2013 issue of Debtfree DIGI
FNB VS ANC
The FNB “You can Help “campaign features a number of videos of children in school uniform reading their hopes for the country. FNB said an independent company had surveyed youth aged 10 to 22 to understand who they were and how they felt about South Africa and its future. They told the kids that they could talk freely, without fear or favour. Comments in the videos quickly stirred up a hornets nest of political commentary and landed FNB in hot water with the ANC
Here are some quotes from the videos originally posted:
“The country is being overrun by poverty… while [President] Jacob Zuma is renovating his home,” said a youth from KwaZulu-Natal.
A Gauteng university student said: “The government is only thinking for themselves… I’m from a rural area and the government doesn’t see what’s happening.”
A KwaZulu-Natal high school pupil said: “… Politicians tend to be the most destructive …aspect of our country…We must not depend on our leaders. Each person must become their own hero.”
A Western Cape student said: “I was born in an epic era… We need to stop relying on government and rely on ourselves.”
Another participant, said, “Stop voting for the same government in hopes for change – instead change your hopes to a government that has the same hopes as us.”
A young man from Gauteng said ” we need to get real. Is South Africa really the paradise? To be quite frank, no. This very moment, South Africa faces, poverty, unemployment and nationwide strikes.” He went on to say, “South African people need to wake up – 1994 is gone! It is gone!” and concluded by saying, “Today is the day South Africa, take charge and fight for what is yours.”
As you can imagine people were quick to sit up and take notice. It is reported that FirstRandCEO Sizwe Nxasana sent an sms to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Monday after a child in an online clip called the minister “brainless” .
“Good Morning Minister. I have instructed FNB to remove the video clips from their website this morning. I will investigate how and why the clips ended [up] on their website. Sincere apologies for this. Sizwe,” the sms read.
ANC Statement and members comments
The ANC soon released a statement saying “The African National Congress is appalled by First National Bank (FNB) advertisements in which the ANC, its leadership and government, is under attack on a commercial masqueraded as youth views,”
“What is of concern to the ANC is that the advert content is undisguised political statement that makes random and untested accusations against our government in the name of discourse.”
The ANC said the bank should not use children to make political statements in a manner disrespectful to elders that disregarded sacrifices made in the 18 years of democratic government.
“To have a school child slur scripted insults over an international platform is unacceptable and FNB should be ashamed of themselves,” spokesperson Troy Martens said.
The presidency also expressed disappointment and surprise over the campaign. “Frivolous adverts which display hatred of government or the ruling party will not help us to achieve the country’s developmental goals,” it said in a statement. “The presidency is disappointed and surprised by the one-sided First National Bank campaign.”
ANCYL spokesperson Khusela Sangoni-Khawe called the campaign “treacherous”. Furhter the league said “We call upon South Africans to close ranks against what is [a] treacherous attack on our country,”.
“If FNB feels at any point that anything is wrong with the government of the African National Congress they have more than enough platforms and opportunity to raise their issues. They should not hide behind young children who are scripted to say things that firstly, they don’t know, but secondly that adults are too afraid to say,” ANCYL head of communications, Khusela Sangoni-Khawe told the media.
There was also a strong online response with comments like: FNB u suck with a PW Botha tendency go 2 Hell the ANC will rule till Jesus Christ comes back if u dont like them u a[re] more than welcome in Australia
FNB and ANC meet
In an effort to come to a resolution regarding the advertising campaign a meeting between the ANC and FNB was arranged. During the meeting the ANC reportedly argued the campaign sought to project the party and government in a negative manner. The ANC said the clips had a negative impact on business confidence and could undermine investment in the country. The ANC pointed out that the clippings were deliberately posted on the FNB website to attack the ANC and it fed into the opposition narrative that seeks to project the ANC in a negative manner. The ANC further asserted that the clippings were meant to delegitimize the ANC particularly amongst the youth. At the meeting the ANC indicated that its leadership and membership were strongly raising a question as to why the organisation should continue to bank with a bank that has adopted an oppositional stance to it.
In response FNB explained to the ruling party the objectives of their youth campaign and stressed that it was meant to inspire all South Africans to work together by helping one another. “The CEO of FNB Mr Sizwe Nxasana did agreed that the research clippings that were posted online were regrettable as such he apologised for the posting of the research clippings online. He then assured the meeting that “this regrettable incident will not be repeated.”
After the meeting FNB pulled offending clips indicating that they had done so to protect the children involved from coming to harm. They have since gone ahead with an amended campaign not featuring all the research comments and clips.
You can watch the main feature video which still mentions things like: greed, mistrust ,anger, violence and indifference to violence, being slaves to illiteracy, hurting each other and petty politics
What others had to say
Opposition parties and activist groups said the ANC’s criticism of the campaign showed its intolerance
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille tweeted on Saturday: “Saying that #FNB caved in order to protect the kids in the advert is a more devastating statement on the ANC govt than anything the ad said.”
The DA say that FNB’s apology to the ANC “sends a message to companies that it is not acceptable to question or criticise the ruling party…In doing so [apologising] it has shown that it is acceptable to be bullied by the governing party, and it has shown the ANC that its bullying tactics work in suppressing critical voices,” “…the ease with which FNB is willing to grovel before the ANC and abandon its principled position is equally inappropriate and bad for democracy.”
Post Apology Fallout
In the aftermath of the campaign the ANC has announced that they are planning to cut ties with FNB in favour of Postbank. This is something that the ANC say they have been discussing for several months. There is one condition for this change to happen: Postbank will need to receive a full retail banking licence before the move happens. Shaheen Adam, the acting managing director of Postbank has said : “We are finalising our application which, if successful, will see Postbank become a fully fledged retail bank.”
Why FNB will feel the pinch
More than a million ANC members deposit their annual membership fees(+- R20) to a party bank account. Chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels said the bank’s only intention with the campaign was to “stimulate social consciousness around the power of help to build a better South Africa”.