A violent protest erupted in oThongathi. Rubber bullets and water cannon were used to disperse a 1 000-strong crowd demanding to see the mayor. Photo: Puri Devjee

Durban - The deaths of three young men, electrocuted while allegedly illegally connecting electricity in oThongathi’s (Tongaat) rural area of Emona, has sparked a violent protest.

Rubber bullets and water cannon had to be used to disperse a 1 000-strong crowd who had been demanding to see the mayor.

They gathered in the town hall at about 8am on Wednesday morning, following a rampage which left bins overturned and rubbish strewn on the main road.

An officer at the scene described the scene as “Tongaat burning”; another source said more than 50 municipal bins had been burned.

The angry mob sang and stamped in protest, waving branches and sticks. They refused to speak to a representative of the eThekwini housing department, wanting only to be addressed by the mayor.

At least four people were hauled into police vans. Police from Phoenix, Verulam and the Tactical Response unit were called in to assist the oThongathi police. Metro police were also at the scene and closed off the main road to traffic.

The area was cordoned off and onlookers who stood across the road from the town hall were warned by police to move further away as the crowd grew more hostile.

A resident of Emona, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Daily News that they were tired of empty promises by government officials to electrify their area.

She said they had been promised electricity since 1994 and at one stage had spent savings buying pre-paid electricity meters only for the city to back-pedal.

“These boys would not have died. They were connecting electricity to their homes so they could sleep with a warm meal in their stomachs.”

A police officer who attended the scene last night said a 19-year-old had been electrocuted while connecting electricity. He had fallen, into a swamp and as surges of electricity tore through his body, his 23-year-old brother reached for him, also getting electrocuted.

Their friend, a 17-year-old grade 10 pupil, jumped in after them. The brothers died at the scene while their friend was pronounced dead on arrival at the clinic.

A resident said she had never seen Emona residents so angry before. She said while marching to the town’s centre, the protesters had destroyed every electricity box along their path.

Residents vowed to return after being sprayed with blue-stained water and turned away by police.

Daily News