June 20, 2016 / 11:37 AM / 3 years ago

South African ruling party member killed at meeting ahead of local polls

Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa January 9, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A member of South Africa’s ruling party was shot dead on Sunday during a meeting in Pretoria to decide mayoral candidates for local elections due to take place in August, a senior official said on Monday.

The elections are expected to be closely contested and will pose a major test for the African National Congress Party (ANC) as it tries to fend off a strong challenge from opponents amid a struggling economy.

ANC’s Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said the party member had died after being shot while attending the meeting called to announce the party’s candidate for mayor in Tshwane municipality where Pretoria is located.

“The ANC is deeply disturbed by the violence which took place at the outskirts of the meeting which was held yesterday. A member of the ANC passed away and several others were injured,” she told a media briefing.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

No details were available about the incident but local media said there had been a dispute over the choice of candidate.

The ANC is under pressure with economic growth seen at less than 1 percent this year, raising the possibility it could lose control of either, or both, the capital Pretoria or commercial centre Johannesburg in this year’s vote.

Any such defeats could hurt the party which has been in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994 as it gears up for a presidential election in 2019.

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia and Richard Balmforth

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