S.African bank grovels after 'political' ad angers ANC

A top South African bank that provoked the fury of the ruling ANC with an advert lamenting political and social problems plaguing the country apologised for the campaign Friday, the party said.

Last week, First National Bank (FNB) unveiled an advert featuring school children making impassioned pleas to citizens to help make South Africa a better place.

The party slammed the ad as an "undisguised political statement" and summoned the bank's executives to its headquarters.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the party said chief executive of FirstRand, FNB's parent company Sizwe Nxasana "apologised" for the advert, for publishing the research behind it and "explained that it was never the intention of FNB to play politics".

"He then assured the meeting that this regrettable incident will not be repeated," read the statement.

The advert was flighted on national television and also posted on youcanhelp.co.za.

In another clip a student urges South Africans to overcome "greed, mistrust" as well as "petty politics" and rampant illiteracy.

The party claims the advert "fed into the opposition narrative that seeks to project the ANC and its government in a negative manner".

During the meeting the ANC said it indicated that its leadership and membership were strongly raising a question why the party should continue to bank with a bank that has adopted an oppositional stance to it.

The ANC youth labelled the advert as "treasonous".

The bank stressed that the campaign was meant "inspire all South Africans to work together by helping one another".

The ANC which has been in power since the end of apartheid in 1994 has recently come under heavy criticsm for being overly sensitive to criticism.

Last year the party hauled the chairman of Nedbank Reuel Khoza over the coals for voicing concern over the ANC leadership, saying it lacks honesty, integrity and vision.

After Friday's statement the Democratic Alliance hit out at both the ANC and the bank.

"(FNB's) decision to apologise to the ANC and withdraw its adverts is lamentable," said party spokesperson Mmusi Maimane.

"In doing so, 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."