Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said Gift Siphamandla Xulu, 30, was shot dead by a security guard while fishing on Gqobhokani farm, about five kilometres outside the Eshowe CBD.
Tensions grew on Thursday morning and residents barricaded the R66 with burning tyres and rubble. The road links Eshowe with Melmoth and Vryheid.
The security guard was due to make his first appearance on murder charges in the Eshowe Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Mbhele said about 300 people from the nearby community of uMlalazi had gathered, stormed three farms and set alight sugar cane and timber fields.
He said a case of public violence was opened at Eshowe police.
An official in the uMlalazi Municipality, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said the mob targeted two farms owned by a farmer who was not connected to the one where Xulu was killed.
The farmer was on holiday and the staff were threatened and the house vandalised.
The mob then walked to the farm where Xulu was killed and set alight the managers’ cottages, the farmhouse and machinery workshops. The official said it was not a racially motivated attack because one of the farms was owned by a black man.
Mbhele said a case of arson was opened. No arrest has been made.
Xulu’s father, Mfanifikile, said his son’s friend had tried calling Xulu several times and eventually a member of the Eshowe mortuary answered the call and told him that the owner of the phone had been shot dead.
“We had to identify his body in the mortuary. He is my only son. We are still in shock and we want the suspect to be handed over to the community to find out why he did it,” he said.
uMlalazi Municipality spokesperson Mkhuseli Buthelezi said the situation could have been handled better because the men who were fishing were not violent, nor intended doing any harm. He called for the police to prioritise and treat the case with urgency.
“We call on the community of uMlalazi to refrain from taking the law into their own hands and allow the police to do their job with no obstruction. Doing this will be to the benefit of the community,” Buthelezi said.
Mayor Thelumoya Jeke Zulu visited the Xulu family to offer his sympathies.
“The situation is tense in the family. None of the family members are employed.
“The municipality will delegate a team to work with the family to ensure that their son is laid to rest with dignity,” Zulu said.
Buthelezi said the protest action had resulted in a huge inconvenience and the R66 had been closed since Wednesday. No traffic could flow through Eshowe towards or from Nkwalini.
An Eshowe businessman, who did not want to be named, said he was grateful the violence had not spilled over into the CBD.
By Thursday afternoon the situation had calmed down and the roads were reopened by the Public Order Police. However, many businesses were still unable to trade because workers had been unable to come to work.
The businessman said this was the first time such a protest had taken place in the area.
Eshowe residents were keeping abreast of events through WhatsApp groups.
The owners of Gqobhokani farm could not be reached.