Riots hit South African capital over mayoral candidate

AP News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2016 8:10 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Some residents in several poor areas of South Africa's capital, Pretoria, blocked roads, looted shops and burned vehicles Tuesday in riots attributed to discontent over the selection of the ruling party's mayoral candidate.

The violence raised concerns about security ahead of local elections on Aug. 3 in South Africa, where periodic unrest over the lack of basic municipal services already stretches police in many poor communities. In the past year, violence and vandalism have also hit some universities and other schools as students protest high fees and voice other grievances.

The unrest in Pretoria began Monday and has affected several areas on the periphery of the city, including Mamelodi and Atteridgeville. About two dozen vehicles, mostly buses, have been set on fire, according to the African News Agency, a South Africa-based media outlet.

Rioters stoned some emergency vehicles, and ambulances were unable to reach sick patients in some areas, the agency quoted provincial health authorities as saying. Authorities closed a section of a major highway north of Pretoria because of the violence.

The South African government appealed for dialogue and condemned the violence, saying in a statement: "Perpetrators will face the full might of the law."

Pretoria is home to government ministries and foreign embassies.

Some residents said they had not been adequately consulted over the selection of Thoko Didiza, a former Cabinet minister from the coastal city of Durban, as mayoral candidate for the African National Congress in local elections. They want incumbent Kgosientso Ramokgopa to stay, though Ramokgopa has backed Didiza as his replacement, according to the African News Agency.

On Sunday, a member of the African National Congress was fatally shot in Pretoria in a dispute coinciding with the party's announcement of its mayoral candidates, authorities said.

Additionally, the ruling party has been under strain because of corruption allegations against President Jacob Zuma, who was instructed by the Constitutional Court to reimburse the state for a portion of more than $20 million in state spending on his private home. Many South Africans are also unsettled over allegations that a wealthy business family, the Guptas, has influenced some of Zuma's Cabinet picks, though the president denies any inappropriate conduct.

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