Maverick Citizen


Parents of Enyobeni 21 livid after tavern owners charged with crimes against a few victims — but not for causing their deaths

Parents of  Enyobeni 21 livid after tavern owners charged with crimes against a few victims — but not for causing their deaths
Parents, friends, religious leaders and other supporters march to East London Magistrates’ Court on 25 November 2022, calling for justice for the 21 young people who died in Enyobeni Tavern in June. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Kicking off their campaign to have President Cyril Ramaphosa order an independent inquiry into the deaths of 21 young people at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London in June, parents were left fuming when tavern owner Vuyokazi Ndevu and manager Siyakhangela Ndevu were charged with selling alcohol to a few of those who died at the tavern.

The parents of 21 young people who died during a party celebrating the end of exams in June this year, were infuriated on Friday (25 November) as tavern owner Vuyokazi Ndevu and manager Siyakhangela Ndevu were formally charged only with selling alcohol to the underaged victims.

The pair has not been charged with causing the deaths of any of the youngsters — only for the selling of alcohol to minors and other charges relating to the transgression of liquor licence conditions.

This left many bereaved family members without a sense of justice for the deaths of their loved ones.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said, “We asked the court to postpone the case to 25 April. That is a prosecutorial strategy to ensure that when we go for trial we are ready.

enyobeni march

Leading the march to the East London Magistrates’ Court is Ntombizonke Mgangala, aunt of victim Sinothando Mangala. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“We need to be able to distinguish this case of selling liquor to underage persons and the one that everyone is interested in that relates to the deaths of the 21 children. That one is still under investigation and as soon as the docket is ready to be enrolled in court it will be enrolled.

Charges ‘laid according to evidence’

“When we enroll a matter we follow evidence… based on the information that is at our disposal.”

enyobeni court ndevu

Enyobeni Tavern owner Vuyokazi Ndevu (left) and manager Siyakhangela Ndevu (right), who are facing two charges of selling or supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18, during their appearance in the East London Magistrates’ Court on 25 November 2022. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

On Friday State advocate Tango Pangalele mentioned only the names of nine victims and one survivor. Parents demanded that their children should be included on the list. Ntombizonke Mgangala, Sinothando Mgangala’s aunt, said they are not happy with the postponement of the case:

“It is too far… if it was postponed to January it would have been better. But there is nothing we can do. All we want is to get justice for our children…. they only mentioned nine children in court yet we had 21 children who died there. Four of them were over 18. Where are the rest?

enyobeni march

Young people, parents and religious leaders gathered outside the East London Magistrates’ Court, calling for justice for the 21 children who died in Enyobeni Tavern. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“They must tell us why they did not include the other children.”

The parents also called for those who caused the deaths of their children to be held accountable. The children mentioned in court are: Nathi Ngqoza (18), Bhongolwethu Ncandana (15), Sikelela Tshemese (18), Sinothando Mgangala (18), Asamkele Thukuthe (17), Esinako Sanarhana (17), Thembinkosi Silwana (14), Inamandla Wexu (16), Azizipho Zilindile (16), all deceased, and Sinomuhlali Akha (17 ) who is still alive.

Tyali said the charges were laid according to the evidence that they had.

“If the community feels that there was more they can bring us evidence… We call on everyone with evidence to assist… in investigating this case. It is in the interest of everyone to prove this case, but if people go around saying they have evidence but they don’t give it to authorities then we cannot give it to court.”

enyobeni court

Some of the parents of the Enyobeni Tavern tragedy victims inside the East London Magistrates’ Court. The Enyobeni Tavern owners are facing charges of selling or supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Parents, religious leaders and a group of young people from East London held a peaceful march from the East London City Hall to the East London Magistrates’ Court where the Ndevus appeared.

The parents submitted a memorandum to NPA and Buffalo City municipality officials. Parent Khululekile Ncandana, speaking during handing over a petition to the NPA, said more needed to be done to hold the owners accountable:

“We believe that they were ultimately responsible for the harm that was inflicted that night.

enyobeni memorandum

Senior public prosecutor Patience Sambokwe (left) receives a memorandum from Khululekile Ncandana, the parent of deceased victim Bongolethu Ncandana, outside the East London Magistrates’ Court on 25 November 2025. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“Our children did not die of natural causes and with that we demand an inquest to be held. We now place our faith in the judicial system that will do all the necessary to get to the bottom of the incident of that evening.”

Mgangala said their petition to the Buffalo City municipality officials demands answers on why they allowed the Enyobeni Tavern to operate: 

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“How did they come to get a licence? Why did Enyobeni owners sell alcohol to underage children? The tavern did not have safety measures in place to deal with a situation like this.

“There is a failure to protect people from alcohol-related harm nationally… There appears to be corruption — people paying bribes to be left alone. Most communities feel completely disempowered and unable to do anything.”

Parents from Scenery Park said it was distressing for them to meet the Ndevus in the street. They want them to be held in custody before their trial.

“I want the law to take its course by putting those two suspects (the manager and the owner) behind bars, in custody until the court finalises the case,” Nomawethu Mboyiya said.

“They appear in court and after their appearance we meet them in the street. This does not look good to us as families who lost their children in that tragedy,” she added.

The families of the 21 insist that they still do not understand how their children died

“My daughter had only one scar on her face… I am still struggling to understand what exactly killed her. That little scar can never kill my daughter,” Mboyiya said. “I want the truth of what happened in that tavern.”

The case against the owners has been postponed to 25 April 2023 for trial. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Incompetence and secrecy have dogged this investigation from the start: is the cause of death known yet? There are many unanswered questions and perhaps this process needs to be monitored closely. If there is a cover-up, who is being protected?

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    There are times that a tragedy becomes an opportunity to reflect as individuals and communities and Enyobeni is one such tragedy. It also becomes an opportunity for the authorities to reflect on how they discharge their duties and responsibilities. It does not exculpate the owner from his own duties and responsibilities as the owner of the tavern. The fact a parent at 12 midnight does not know where his or her child is at that time speaks volumes about the distance between the parents and children. A community where a tavern is said to have been allowing minors as patrons shows lack of community leadership because the community should have taken action against the tavern and not wait for a tragedy to happen. The failure of the authorities, the police and the liquor board to ensure that the owner’s complied with the conditions of the licence speaks volumes about the gross dereliction of duty by authorities. That they are hufffing and puffing after precious lives were lost is meaningless. I raise these issues because it is easy tooint fingers to the owners as a lynch mob and not to the responsibilities of parents, communities and authorities. Journalism as a public service needs to probe everyone and their responsibilities in the Enyobeni
    tavern not to give a thoghtless tabloid reporting. Scrutiny of everyone including parents, communities and authorities is required in this tragedy.

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