Riots Hit S Africa Over Mayor Candidate

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Some residents in several poor areas of South Africa's capital, Pretoria, blocked roads, looted shops and burned vehicles on 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 has 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 in the violence, according to the African News Agency, a South Africa-based media outlet. Police deployed to areas of unrest and some officers on leave were called back to duty.

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

Some residents complained that 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 on Aug. 3. 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 millions of dollars in state spending in his private home. Many South Africans are also unsettled over allegations that a wealthy family of business executives has influenced some of Zuma's Cabinet picks, though the president denies any inappropriate conduct.

Pretoria is home to government ministries and foreign embassies. South Africa's parliament meets in Cape Town.

(KA)