South African police says Pretoria tense after overnight riots in ruling party dispute

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Pretoria  –   African police said Pretoria tensed on Wednesday after residents torched buses and looted shops overnight, in clashes sparked by the ruling party’s choice a mayoral candidate for local polls.

would hold local government elections on Aug. 3, in what looks likely to become a referendum on Jacob Zuma’s leadership amid mounting concern over weak economic growth.

Police disclosed that flared on Monday night as impoverished residents of Pretoria’s townships set light to vehicles after the African National Congress’ (ANC) national leadership named a candidate for mayor in the Tshwane municipality.

said investigation revealed that the candidate was nominated by its regional branches.

Police said there was an uneasy calm in Pretoria as some roads were impassable because of debris and burned-out vehicles from the violence, and normal commercial life was disrupted.

Console Tleane, Tshwane Metro Police Spokesman, confirmed that vehicles were set alight and a newly-built school was vandalised by gangs of rioters.

“Last night’s violence erupted at around 6 p.m until 3 a.m this morning, and there were still sporadic clashes and running battles with police in some areas.

“Whereas there is calm in some hot spots, the navigation of the streets is difficult because of the rubble and the debris,’’ he said.

A party official said on condition of anonymity that the dispute was triggered at the weekend, after an ANC member was shot dead on Sunday as party factions met to decide on a candidate for mayor of Pretoria’s Tshwane municipality.

He said the ANC leadership later named Thoko Didiza, Party member and former Cabinet Minister, as its candidate for Tshwane, overriding regional branch members and touching off the riots.

He, however, said the party planned to hold a meeting later on Wednesday over the violence, but has declined to withdraw Didiza as its candidate.

Robert Besseling, Head of the EXX Africa Business Risk Intelligence Group, said that ahead of the August elections, there could be another protest.

He said the disgruntled ANC supporters in Gauteng would be motivated by the Pretoria riots to stage further protests to demonstrate the unpopular ANC leadership’s decisions. (Reuters/NAN)