Maverick Citizen


Date set for Enyobeni inquest, but still no word on what killed 21 youngsters

Date set for Enyobeni inquest, but still no word on what killed 21 youngsters
Photographs of some of the young people who died in the Enyobeni Tavern tragedy are displayed by relatives at an anniversary commemoration on 26 June 2023 at Scenery Park Community Hall, East London. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The SA Police Service has confirmed that an inquest to determine liability for the deaths of 21 young people at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, will be held from 30 August.

Police have confirmed that an inquest to determine who is legally responsible for the deaths of 21 young people in the Enyobeni Tavern in East London on 26 June 2022 will begin at the end of August.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said the police had immediately assembled a team of investigators after the tragedy in 2022. 

“In concert with other government departments, the SAPS worked closely to ensure that progress is made and the affected families find closure,” he said.

“On the day, the children unfortunately died from an unknown cause and police detectives had to scratch for clues and gather all evidence which could possibly provide answers to the bereaved families and the public as well.”

Kinana said the Department of Health had released the post-mortem results for the deceased and that these had been handed to the National Prosecuting Authority. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The tragic story of the Enyobeni 21 – no consequences, clarity, action or change

“After the docket with the post-mortem results was taken to the director of Public Prosecutions for a decision, it was then decided that the docket be taken to the inquest court proceeding for a formal hearing,” he said.

Kinana added that prosecutors were “currently preparing subpoenas for all witnesses to attend the hearing on 30 August 2023 in the East London Regional Court”.

“All the relevant and affected parents in the case have been given feedback in this regard… including other details relating to the post-mortem results,” Kinana said.

He added this would be discussed only in court to avoid “jeopardising and compromising the evidence which is yet to be presented before the court of law”. He said police management would visit each family to explain the process.

“The gesture was welcomed by the families,” Kinana said.

The 21 young people who died at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, on 26 June 2022 were: 

Sinako Sanarhana, Sikelela Tshemese, Sinothando Mgangala, Thembinkosi Silwane, Azizipho Zilindile, Bhongolethu Ncandana, Aluncedo Monelo, Mbulelo Rangile, Nathi Ngqoza, Inathi Nkani, Asamkele Thukuthe, Lithemba Velaphi, Sandanathi Mahlakahlaka, Simamkele Sobetwa, Kungentando Nzima, Lilitha Methuko, Lungile Bekiso, Ovayo Mateyise, Inamandla Wexu, Simele Bolsiki and Oyena Ngoloyi.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Fearful Enyobeni Tavern survivors abandon memorial speeches

A preliminary toxicology report found that the victims all had methanol in their blood. Methanol in certain concentrations can be lethal.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health had initially promised to have more tests done to determine if there were indeed lethal concentrations of methanol in their blood. Nothing was ever heard again about this test.

Instead, parents were told that their children had suffocated or died of crush injuries. This angered the parents as it did not correlate with what they saw when they identified their children at the morgue.

In the meantime, the owners of the tavern, Vuyokazi Ndevu and her husband Siyakhangela, were charged with the statutory crime of selling liquor to minors – but not for the deaths of the 21 children. Their trial will continue on 24 August.

The Enyobeni parents recently staged a picket at the Woodbrook forensic offices in East London.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said, “The department wishes to provide clarity on the processes followed in issuing the cause of death results. It must be noted that the department’s mandate/responsibility remains that of conducting forensic investigations for cases that require investigations to determine the cause of death.

“This means that the forensic report and all other relevant documents for such cases belong to the South African Police Service.

“Upon the completion of the forensic investigation process, the department handed over the report to the SAPS investigation officer. The department wishes to report that the cause(s) of death results for this particular case was handed over to SAPS to conduct their investigation. 

“We also want to emphasise that this is standard procedure, as the law prohibits the department to divulge the cause of death for investigative cases, as this may jeopardise police investigations,” she said. DM


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