Sacob wary on crime ad row

The South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) said yesterday it welcomed "constructive efforts" to reduce crime.

The South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) said yesterday it welcomed "constructive efforts" to reduce crime.

However, Deidre Penfold, Sacob's president, would not take sides in the debate after First National Bank's (FNB) decision to drop an anti-crime advertising campaign.

FNB is a member of Sacob.

"I don't want to personally comment on whether FNB was right or wrong," Penfold said.

"Whatever the reasons for the withdrawal, everybody is entitled to express their concerns in whatever way they choose."

FNB's R20 million campaign involved print, television and radio advertisements and invited members of the public to write to President Thabo Mbeki about their experiences of crime.

The African Democratic Christian Party (ACDP) said it found it "difficult to believe" the government had not exerted pressure on FNB.

Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the ACDP, called on the government to end its "self-serving mentality".

"While the country is clamouring for solutions and reassurance, the government is choosing to bury its head in the sand and to view crime and attitudes to crime primarily in terms of how it affects the public image of the ANC," he said.

Meshoe also slammed government spokesman Themba Maseko's comment that the campaign was a form of incitement against Mbeki.

Maseko was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: "Trying to incite people to behave in a certain way towards the head of state cannot be condoned."

Presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga and Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka have both denied that the government had put pressure on FNB to can the initiative.

The DA, the PAC and the trade union Solidarity have also criticised FNB's decision to put the campaign on hold.

The bank dropped the campaign, reportedly after a meeting on Friday that included senior ANC leaders.

Paul Harris, chief executive of FirstRand Bank, told the Sunday Times that the matter was discussed with a "broad range of stakeholders".

Yesterday Business Against Crime (BAC) said it did not attend the meeting.

"As for that alleged meeting, no one from BAC attended," said chief executive Siphiwe Nzimande.

Commenting on the campaign, he said : "It springs out of a desire to be seen to be doing something [against crime]." - Sapa

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