Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in South Africa is "shell shocked" at Gauteng local government MEC Dorothy Mahlangu's verbal attack on Central Methodist Church Bishop Paul Verryn.
"For Mahlangu to accuse a man of God, Bishop Paul Verryn of exposing Zimbabweans to danger when he is actually providing us shelter is very regrettable," said MDC spokesman Sibanengi Dube.
"At least thousands of our people have somewhere to lay their heads where no rain can soak. We now have a roof over our heads, isn't [that] better than sleeping in the streets?" he asked.
On Friday, Mahlangu said that Zimbabwean refugees should not be allowed to stay at Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church and that she thought Bishop Paul Verryn was exposing them to more danger.
"I don't think its helpful for the Bishop to continue to do what he's doing under the guise that he's simply helping vulnerable people," said Mahlangu.
"We are not condoning what he is doing. We condemn it," she said.
Verryn responded by saying Mahlangu's comments were out of place.
"It is most unfortunate at this time for us to enter a mudslinging match. There's plenty of mud lying around," said Verryn.
"[Mahlangu] hasn't had the decency to pick up the phone and call me."
Dube said: "We appeal to South Africa's senior government officials to desist from the habit of making inflammatory statements which could trigger a second round of xenophobic attacks.
"We expected the provincial government which Mahlangu is serving to complement and not complicate the efforts being made by Verryn," Dube said.
"Mahlangu should know that when ANC cadres fled to Zimbabwe under the heavy pursuit of apartheid operatives, we did not close our doors in-front of them, but took them in our houses. We don't expect a senior ANC member of Mahlangu's stature to exhibit clear insensitivity to the plight of Zimbabweans