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Cause of death of 21 people in a South African tavern still unclear

Photo By The Citizen
Photo By The Citizen


ON Sunday June 26 2022, South Africa woke up to the news of 21 people having died during celebrations at the Enyobeni Tavern, in East London, Eastern Cape province, South Africa.

This incident sent shock wakes across the country and elsewhere, especially due to the rumors that foul play is suspected, including poisoning.

But this week, the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities yesterday visited the families of the 21 children who tragically passed away at Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park in East London recently.

At the gathering in Scenery Park Community Hall, the committee was accompanied by its counterparts in the Eastern Cape Legislature, ward counsellors and the Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The families were accompanied by Scenery Park Residence Association leaders and church leaders.

The Chairperson of the committee, Nonhlanhla Ncube-Ndaba, thanked the families for making themselves available for the committee’s visit and for agreeing to meet together, all under one roof. “We are aware that it was not an easy decision for you to leave your homes where families grieve together and accepted our request to come to this hall to afford us an opportunity to say to all of you ‘Sorry and be comforted’,” said Ncube-Ndaba.

The purpose of the visit, the Chairperson said, was for the committee to express its deep and heartfelt condolences to the families and to engage with all the relevant stakeholders that including the South African Police Service, the Buffalo City Municipality, the Enyobeni Tavern and the Liquor Board, which issues licences to taverns.

Ncube-Ndaba said: “It is not livestock of goats and cows that have died. It is souls of our dearest children and there must be convincing answers about their death.”

The parents of the deceased children urged the committee to help them accelerate the investigation into the reasons for the deaths of their children. They also appealed to the committee that the tavern, the police and the Liquor Board be held accountable for the tragedy. The bereaved that were present are the Mahlakahlaka, Malangeni, Rangile, Ncandana, Monelo, Sobekwa, Mgangala, Thukuthe, Bhoyiya, Jamens, Velaphi, Ngqoza, Methuko, Bekiso, Wexu, Mdangayi and Nkani families.

The NYDA Chairperson gave the NYDA’s condolences to the families and said it would embark on an aggressive campaign to end the culture of alcohol and drug use among the youth. She called on parents, residential organisations and other community role-players to assist in this campaign.

As part of its oversight visit in East London, the committee will today meet the owner of Enyobeni Tavern, the Liquor Board, Buffalo City Municipality, SAPS and the NYDA. Members of the committee will remain in East London until Wednesday to attend the mass funeral of the deceased children.

Meanwhile, according to SABC News, the police investigation on site at the Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park where 21 people died on Sunday morning is complete, and the investigating team has withdrawn.

However, the post mortem results are yet to be released. The tavern has been closed since the incident happened.

Bottles are scattered across the dirty floor, and many shoes are also lying around, left behind in the chaos of that fateful morning. The smell of stale alcohol hangs in the air.

Neighbours want the establishment be closed permanently.

“We have laid numerous complaints with the owner and even had a meeting with police and CPF they said they will handle the matter but nothing changed, we have sleepless nights every weekends.”

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