The ruling party of South Africa has criticised the Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, for saying Melbourne could become “the Johannesburg of the South Pacific” over a perceived increase in crime.
The African National Congress (ANC) released a statement saying Guy’s comments were “unfortunate” and “seek to portray South Africa in a negative manner”.
“These comments are regrettable, and feed into lazy stereotypes of African cities as crime havens,” it said. “They serve to tarnish the reputation of the City of Johannesburg – known widely as the gateway to Africa; and regularly cited amongst several indices as world-class city.
“Drawing South Africa – with a well established reputation as a leading tourism destination – into the political frays of Victoria state, is unfortunate and unbecoming of a senior Australian politician.”
Guy made the comment several times at a press conference in Melbourne on Wednesday after 15 detainees escaped a youth detention centre following a “disturbance” involving 30 inmates, in which one staff member was injured.
The escapees allegedly stole three cars. Six were arrested in cars an hour after their escape and two were found on foot soon after. Four more were found on Thursday morning, and the remaining four on Thursday afternoon.
“Every day we’re seeing riots, we’re seeing crime waves,” Guy said on Wednesday. “This is a government who is standing by and allowing Melbourne to become the Johannesburg of the South Pacific.”
The ANC called on the Australian high commissioner in Pretoria, Adam McCarthy, to “clarify” Guy’s comments.
It also used the statement to criticise the Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, a rightwing politician from the opposition Democratic Alliance party who has pledged to “transform” the city’s image.
The ANC, which was the party of Nelson Mandela and has ruled South Africa for 22 years, said Guy’s comments showed the “far-reaching impact” of Mashaba’s “disparaging remarks”.
It added: “In essence the leader of the opposition in Victoria, Australia, is merely paraphrasing mayor Mashaba.”