JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African police fired rubber bullets on Wednesday at stone throwing supporters of the ruling ANC who tried to confront members of the opposition Democratic Alliance party as they marched in central Johannesburg, a Reuters witness said.
The incident is a sign of rising tensions in South Africa before general elections on May 7, which are seen as the biggest political test yet for President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress (ANC), which has been in power for 20 years since the end of white apartheid rule.
Police, who were between the lines of the rival supporters, opened fire briefly at ANC members clad in the party's yellow T-shirts, a Reuters reporter said.
Thousands of supporters from both parties were brought by bus in; the Democratic Alliance (DA) to march in what it said was a protest about high rates of unemployment in Africa's largest economy and the ANC to defend its headquarters in Johannesburg.
Commentators have said the march by the DA, the country's biggest opposition party, was a deliberate provocation to goad ANC supporters into violence and highlight what it says is the party's intolerant nature.
There was a heavy police presence in the area and banks, restaurants and shops were closed in Johannesburg's downtown district, with a razor wire barricade thrown up around a central square.
(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa and Elizabeth Piper)