Durban - Traffic on the N2 near Port Shepstone had to be diverted on Wednesday after disgruntled residents caused havoc during a violent service delivery protest.
Hundreds of people blocked the road with burning tyres and debris demanding “fresh tap water” after water cuts at the weekend.
The upheaval, which started on Monday, culminated on Wednesday in the death of a man believed to be one of the protesters.
“The body of Michael Mathenjwa, 26, was found in an area close to where the protests were taking place. He had no visible injuries. The cause of death is unknown and a post mortem will be conducted. The case is still under investigation,” said police spokesman Jay Naicker.
Police struggled to contain the hostile crowd, which demanded to be addressed by KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu.
Naicker said the crowd hurled stones at police on Tuesday. Five people, aged between 32 and 47, were arrested for public violence.
On Wednesday Road Traffic Inspectorate spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu said traffic had to be diverted between Murchison Hospital and at the Marburg robots, where the situation was most volatile.
The ANC’s lower south coast secretary, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, said the community’s grievances were genuine. “Their complaint is that this water issue is on and off. They have water for three days and then they don’t have it for two days - it’s been like that for about three months,” he said.
Ugu District Municipality spokesman Sipho Khuzwayo blamed the water shortages on power cuts at the weekend.
“The water pumps use electricity and there was a power failure at the weekend. The water levels decreased in reservoirs before the pumps could be fixed,” he said.
He said the public was up in arms on Monday demanding fresh tap water and refusing to fetch water from water tankers.
“The mayor met them and they eventually agreed to the water tankers. But tankers were stoned and we decided to pull them out,” he said.
East Coast Radio Newswatch on Wednesday reported that Mchunu visited the area and addressed the angry crowd, reassuring them that their concerns would be addressed. The MEC said allegations of police brutality during the demonstration would be investigated.