Maverick Citizen


Tavern tragedy: ‘What killed our children’ – two months later, families still don’t have answers

Tavern tragedy: ‘What killed our children’  – two months later, families still don’t have answers
Scenery Park community members gather outside the East London Magistrates court as Enyobeni Tavern owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu appeared on Friday. (Photo: Mark Andrews)

The families of 21 school children found dead at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, on 26 June are starting to think they will never know what killed their children.

On Friday the manager of Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, briefly appeared in court on charges of selling alcohol to minors. But, with the two-month anniversary of the tragedy coming up this week, families of the deceased say they might never know what killed their children.

Outside the East London Regional Court, panic was beginning to grip families who believe they might never know what happened that dreadful night.

On 26 June, the bodies of 21 youngsters, the youngest aged 13, were found in Enyobeni. They were at a “pens down” party, celebrating the start of the winter holidays.

The deaths baffled local forensic pathologists and samples of the teeenagers’ blood, stomach contents, and belongings and clothes found on the scene, were sent to Cape Town for a more detailed analysis.

In July, Dr Litha Matiwane of the Eastern Cape Health Department said all the victims had methanol in their blood. Methanol is a type of alcohol that can be poisonous above a certain quantity. There have been cases of fatal methanol poisonings in South Africa before – mostly related to home-brewed alcohol.

Methanol, an industrial alcohol, is often found in counterfeit alcohol products as it is used to “cut” drinks to increase volume.

Enyobeni manager Siyakhangela Ndevu (52) has so far only been charged with selling alcohol to minors. These charges were opened by the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.

Enyobeni Tavern owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu appears at the East London Magistrates Court on Friday 19 August 2022. (Photo: Mark Andrews)

On Friday, the case was postponed to 2 September for a pre-trial conference.

Outside the court, a group of protestors called for justice for the deceased. 

The families of the dead teenagers called on the government to reveal the cause of death as they are worried they will never get answers.

The families said they were still awaiting the results of the investigation.

Family member Xolile Malangeni said the group had been expecting results of the tests at the end of August.

Mass shootings - a view of President Cyril Ramaphosa attending the mass funeral

President Cyril Ramaphosa(C) with premier Oscar Mabuyane attended the mass symbolic funeral of teenagers who lost their lives at Enyobeni tavern in scenery park outside East London on 06 July 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

“We don’t see any justice in this case. The Eastern Cape Liquor Board and the police failed us,” he said. “If you don’t have the money in South Africa you are nothing.”

Families also expressed concern that the owner of the tavern, Vuyokazi Ndevu, in whose name the liquor licence was issued, had not been arrested.

They believed she was the one who should be held accountable.

Eastern Cape spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Luxolo Tyali, said Ndevu was facing charges of “selling or supplying intoxicating liquor, to persons under 18 years of age, and for conniving with and permitting employees and agents to sell or supply or deliver intoxicating liquor, to persons under the age of 18 years”.

Tyali continued: “The state alleges that the accused upon or about the late hours of 25  May 2022 to the early hours of 26 May 2022, at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in the District of East London, the accused being the registered manager of eNyobeni Tavern, connived and permitted one Xoliswa Duma and Sivuyile Ngamlana to wrongfully and unlawfully sell, offer for sale, display and deliver, supply or dispose of for sale, authorise the sale or allow a sale of intoxicating liquor to under age deceased persons.”

Scenery Park community members gather outside the East London Magistrates’ court as Enyobeni Tavern owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu appeared on Friday. (Photo: Mark Andrews)

Ndevu was served with a summons by the police in July 2022, to appear in court this week, while the two employees were given an option to pay a fine.

The case has been postponed to 2 September for a pre-trial conference.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board has cautioned tavern owners against inviting popular DJs to perform at their taverns.

“This has the potential to cause a public nuisance and noise pollution in our communities. DJs performing attracts a huge amount of young people which, if not appropriately regulated, may exacerbate underage drinking in our communities.”

According to Mgwebi Msiya, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, DJ events fall under a special part of the Eastern Cape Liquor Act and taverns should apply for permission to hold them. He said an application should be accompanied by a risk certificate from the police, a noise pollution certificate from a municipality and municipal permission to hold the event. 

He said if an event goes ahead without this permission, “drastic action” will be taken against the holder of the liquor licence.

This weekend, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board held a community information session in Rhode Location, Mount Ayliff, where illegal shebeens have been “mushrooming”, according to Msiya. He said the board had received a number of reports of “inconsiderate trading” from the community. DM/MC



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