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Johannesburg censured for 'world class African city' claim

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This picture taken on February 28, 2012 shows a view of Johannesburg. The city of Johannesburg has been ordered to stop running part of its "world class African city," campaign by South Africa's advertising authority, which ruled it was "misleading." (AFP/File)

The city of Johannesburg has been ordered to stop running part of its "world class African city" campaign by South Africa's advertising authority, which ruled it was "misleading."

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint by resident Steven Haywood, who argued the city's long-running marketing campaign "contain blatant untruths."

Johannesburg, population 4.5 million, is sub-Saharan Africa's richest city and the region's economic hub.

While many parts of the city are leafy, urbane and well-to-do, its inner-city and poor townships are plagued by unemployment, crime, poor housing and limited public utilities.

Haywood took issue with one particular radio advert that implored listeners to imagine themselves living in a recession-busting environmentally friendly "world class African city."

"Imagine a city where you can rest assured, knowing that it is financially stable; that there is on-going electrification of homes."

"A city that is saving the environment through different energy-efficient interventions. A city that continues to create new jobs despite the economic downturn. Can you imagine living in such a city? You do."

Haywood argued that the advert was misleading, since the city's finances had received three consecutive qualified audits and was struggling to repair roads, while garbage often lies uncollected.

The advertising authority on Monday agreed and ruled that the commercial should be withdrawn immediately "in its current form."

It said it had "no option but to find that the commercial appears to be communicating a misleading message."

Fred Mokoko, a spokesman for the mayor of Johannesburg, told AFP Wednesday they would appeal the ruling.

"Our lawyers are busy preparing the appeal documents, we are appealing... we were never offered a chance to state our case," said Mokoko.

He said the "world class" statement was the city's 2040 growth vision, coined in 2005, and can be seen on billboards and glossy inflight magazines.

This year, Johannesburg unveiled a $10 billion (eight billion euro) ten-year infrastructure development plan, which includes housing and roads improvement.