The surrounding squatters camps and vandals perform illegal electrical connections leaving the Sunshine School for special needs children in Soweto with an even bigger bill than what they can manage. Picture: Timothy Bernard27.02.2012

Durban - A man was electrocuted when he stepped on a tangle of illegal electrical connections in the Quarry Road informal settlement on Monday, as police were dispersing a crowd of violent protesters.

At about 7am, about 300 residents – some of whom had brought their children with them – from informal settlements around Reservoir Hills and Clare Estate blocked traffic on the M19 for more than five hours, demanding electricity.

Peak-hour traffic was disrupted and came to a standstill as the protesters placed burning tyres, debris, and pieces of wood in the busy road to block it off. Police dispersed the crowds about noon.

Crisis Medical spokesman Kyle van Reenen said scores of children between the ages of a few months and 5 years inhaled tear gas and some were trampled when police dispersed the protest.

Police used gas and rubber bullets after the protest turned violent.

Police spokesman Jay Naicker confirmed the death, saying the man had been running away from police with other residents. An inquest docket had been opened for investigation.

Municipal spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said residents were demanding installation of electricity in their informal settlements.

Mthethwa added that eThekwini would investigate the issues raised by the community. “Residents displaced during the attacks on foreigners have also been unable to return to their homes, alleging that their informal dwellings have been sold,” she said.

“eThekwini officials were on scene to defuse the situation and deal with the residents’ concerns. A community meeting will be held this week to address those concerns,” she said.

Mthethwa said a preliminary meeting would be held with community leaders, the ward councillor and relevant city departments “to get to the crux of the matter.

“Thereafter, a mass community meeting will be held to interact with all residents this week”.

The city said police officers would be at the scene until today, to ensure there were no further disruptions.

Naicker said three people, aged between 27 and 48, had been arrested for public violence and would appear in Pinetown Magistrate’s Court today. Naicker said an inquest docket had been opened at Sydenham police station to investigate the man’s death. He confirmed police would be monitoring the area.

The Mercury