EAST LONDON TRAGEDY
Enyobeni tavern owner arrested for contravening Liquor Act — cause of teenagers’ deaths still unknown
The owner of the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London will appear in court in August on charges of selling alcohol to children.
The owner of Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park, East London together with two employees were arrested over the weekend and on Tuesday afternoon for selling liquor to children under the age of 18.
While the trio were arrested on charges opened by the Liquor Board, the police said that the results of forensics tests conducted to ascertain the cause of death for the 21 young people were still outstanding.
The teenagers, most under the age of 18, died of unknown causes at the shebeen in the early morning hours of 26 June.
Daily Maverick has previously written about the ownership of the tavern. However, the employee suspects can only be named formally by the police once they have appeared in court.
Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said a team of detectives was working on the case. He said the arrest of the 52-year-old suspect and two employees aged between 33 and 34, follows after the Eastern Cape Liquor Board laid charges in Scenery Park Police Station for contravention of the Liquor Act.
The Liquor Board opened the charges a few days after the children’s deaths.
“After the opening of the case by the Liquor Board, the investigators embarked on the investigation process. This resulted in fines to the amount of R2,000 being issued to each of the two tavern employees, while a summons was served on the owner to appear in court.
Kinana said the tavern owner is expected in the East London Magistrate’s court on 19 August 2022. The two employees have been given an option of a fine in terms of the Liquor Act. Should they fail to pay the fine, they will be required to appear in the same court on 19 August 2022.
“SAPS management has reaffirmed its commitment in ensuring that all the investigations around the Scenery Park tragic incident are conducted in [a] more professional and well-organised manner for a successful prosecution and subsequent conviction in the court of law,” he added.
The Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Nomthetheleli Mene has appreciated the work of the investigators thus far and further expressed gratitude for the patience shown by both affected families and communities.
“Just as we said in the beginning, investigation is a process and needs to be treated with extreme care and wisdom so that we can achieve the desired outcomes which all of us will be proud of. This is the beginning of the great work we are doing behind the scene,” Mene said.
The arrests come as the MEC for Finance in the province, Mlungisi Mvoko, whose department also handles the issuing of liquor licences, admitted that there was “a great need to improve human resources to effectively enforce compliance (by liquor outlets).
“We have 16 liquor inspectors to monitor more than 7,500 liquor outlets in the province,” he said. “The 16 inspectors are responsible for both pre-registration inspections for all the new applications to ensure that all requirements are met, and they are also expected to conduct post-registration inspections to ensure compliance to the trading conditions of the issued license. It is a matter that we are looking at addressing.
He added that the provincial liquor laws do not limit the number of liquor outlets that can be licensed in the province.
“I must hasten to add that our issuing of licences is guided by the law and certainly not motivated by revenue collection,” he added.
“The number of taverns in some areas may be very high. The difficulty we have is in striking a balance. How do you not approve licenses for taverns and still avoid an increase in legal shebeens?” he said.
Dr Mgwebi Msiya from the Eastern Cape Liquor Board said they were delighted by the arrests.
“We are grateful to the SAPS for the swift action. We are looking forward to a successful prosecution. We hope this will serve as a strong warning to other liquor traders in the province that failure to comply with the trading conditions will have consequences. We want to ensure that this doesn’t repeat itself in our province. We want to ensure that all the liquor traders take the conditions of their licenses seriously. I must say that as the Eastern Cape Liquor Board we are very excited about this. This is a great achievement for us…that someone who has violated the act has been brought before the court.” DM/MC
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