From our archives – FNB does U-turn on anti-crime campaign

2013-01-22 11:58

FNB’s decision to pull the videos from its “You can help” campaign is not a first for the banking group. In February 2007, City Press reported:

First National Bank has made an abrupt U-turn on a strong anti-crime drive just six days before President Thabo Mbeki delivers his state-of-the-nation address.

The bank took a last-minute decision to withdraw an advertising campaign calling on all South Africans to send letters to the president expressing their concerns at high crime levels in the country.

The campaign would have seen large folded inserts placed inside major Sunday newspapers, including City Press, entitled: “Help us help South Africa”.

Each insert contains a letter which declares that SA is a wonderful country that has been recognised by the world to host the Fifa 2010 World Cup.

But the letter goes on to express concern about the rising crime rate, noting that 18 525 murders occurred last year alone, with 52 926 rapes and 119 726 robberies committed during the same period.

“I’m also concerned that crime is destroying our progress and threatens our dream of eliminating poverty and living in peace. As a result, the world continues to question the credibility of our progress,” states the letter, which is accompanied by a prepaid postage envelope with Mbeki as the addressee.

At the bottom of the letter is a space where signatories attach their own personal stories.

About 1.5 million posters would have been inserted in the newspapers at a cost of R20 million.

FNB spokesperson Xolisa Vapi said the bank decided on this message because it wanted to make a positive and constructive contribution to the ongoing debate about crime.

“We are seeking to direct high levels of emotion around crime towards some positive action,” he said.

He said the campaign was not withdrawn but shifted to a later date to allow the bank to “fine-tune” it.

This, Vapi said, was because some people might interpret the message differently and thereby undermine the positive slant of this message.

He denied that FNB was backtracking amid fears that the campaign could unleash a strong backlash from the president when he delivers his address on Friday.

FNB is the banker for three provincial departments, the post office, Transnet, Telkom and the South African Revenue Service.

Vapi would not comment on speculation that the campaign could possibly put these accounts in jeopardy.

Presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga dismissed the campaign as a “misplaced initiative”.

“We can all shout at one another, but it is not going to help anybody. After the shouting, crime will still be there.”

Ratshitanga said there was nobody in government who did not understand the impact of crime and its effect on society. He added that big business was already on board, constantly engaging with government on the issue through the Business Against Crime initiative.

“We think, in the presidency, that all of us must use our energies positively to address our problems, not just crime but whatever problems we have in the country,” he said.

Vapi declined to comment on the presidency’s response.

- Caiphus Kgosana, City Press, February 11 2007

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