Police investigate man's death in Ntshawini house fire as protests rage

Durban – A man has died after his home caught fire in Ntshawini, north of Durban, where protests have been raging since Monday, police said on Tuesday afternoon.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thembeka Mbhele has, however, said that the man's death has not immediately been linked to ongoing protest action.

An overnight mass protest by the Groutville and Ntshawini communities in KwaDukuza, north of Durban, caused chaos on the North Coast on Tuesday morning.

Police and community members engaged in running battles as protesters attempted to keep the N2 north and R102 roads closed. Residents were protesting over recent power outages in the area.

Mbhele said the man was in his home in the early hours of Tuesday morning when tragedy struck.

"He phoned his neighbour, a police officer, who called an ambulance. He appears to have died from smoke inhalation, but we will need a post-mortem to confirm.

Mbhele said police could not immediately find any clues pointing to foul play.

"We are not sure what the cause of the fire is at the moment. An inquest docket has been opened. There is no sign of a housebreaking. At the moment, it is not related to the protest."

Municipality appeals for calm

KwaDukuza municipality spokesperson Sifiso Zulu apologised on behalf of the municipality for the power outages that led to the protest.

"We wish to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience the outages have caused to all the communities, households and businesses. It is very unfortunate that these protests have caused harm to properties and individuals."

Zulu said the municipality's electrical engineering business unit was "working hard to fix all issues currently barring some households from accessing electricity". 

He said teams were deployed to Mathenjwa, Ntshawini, Groutville, Shakaville and Thembeni to restore power.

He added that while the N2 north bound was opened, the R102 was still barricaded by protesters.

"Engagements with the electrical engineering business unit staff on this particular issue are ongoing and are expected to be brought to finality in no less than seven working days."

He appealed for calm from the public adding that the community should report unlawful activities during the protest to police.