First National Bank had no intention of pointing fingers and criticising the government with its “You Can Help Campaign”, it said on Tuesday.
“I believe there was a misinterpretation of our intent,” chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels said.
“Our focus was to galvanise the nation into helping. Our intent of the campaign was to get the nation to be inspired to work together.”
The 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 were told they could talk freely, without fear or favour.
The “unscripted and uncensored” videos used in the campaign emerged from this process.
On Monday the African National Congress said it was appalled by the campaign and the ANC Youth League called it “treasonous”.
Samuels said the bank was “astounded and disturbed” by the allegation, and that it had since pulled some of the videos.
“The children were caught in the crossfire and we felt it was in their best interest,” she said.
On Tuesday, Business Report published quotes from some of the videos which had been retracted.
“The country is being overrun by poverty… while [President] Jacob Zuma is renovating his home,” said a youth from KwaZulu-Natal.
A university student from Gauteng said: “The government is only thinking for themselves…. I’m from a rural area and the government doesn’t see what’s happening.”
“… Politicians tend to be the most destructive and eruptive [sic] aspect of our country…. We need motives and a clear vision…. We must not depend on our leaders. Each person must become their own hero,” said a high school pupil from KwaZulu-Natal.
A Western Cape student said: “I was born in an epic era…. We need to stop relying on government and rely on ourselves.”
Samuels said FNB had found that young people in South Africa were incredibly hopeful and positive about the country’s future.
“They are sharp critics, they love their country, but they are critical. We are talking about working together and we wanted to provide a platform for children to be heard,” she said.
Samuels said FNB would welcome the opportunity to meet with the ANC and discuss the matter.