Cape Town - A sombre mood permeated a sports field in Scenery Park, East London on Wednesday as the community and the nation bid farewell to 19 of the 21 youngsters who died under mysterious circumstances in Enyobeni tavern last week.
The cause of the deaths is still under investigation with the Eastern Cape Health department on Wednesday indicating that the specimens of post-mortem samples that were sent to a toxicology laboratory in the Western Cape were still under examination.
A stampede has since been ruled out as the cause of the teenager’s deaths.
The department said that in conjunction with the police it would engage the families when it received the laboratory results.
The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has since closed the tavern and criminal charges were opened against the tavern owner for violating the Liquor Act by selling alcohol to minors.
The youngest child who died in the tragedy was 13 with 12 youngsters that survived the incident.
The Eastern Cape government spokesperson Khuselwa Rantjie said one youngster was buried on Tuesday in Xesi outside King William’s Town, another was buried yesterday while others would be placed in their final resting place from today up to Saturday.
“There are 21 young people who died, 18 are being buried within the Buffalo City Metro in different cemeteries including rural areas – while three others will be buried outside the metro,” she said.
Rantjie said the Eastern Cape Provincial Government working with the Buffalo City municipality provided the infrastructure (marquee, chairs, audio-visual equipment) and Avbob supported the families with funeral costs such as coffins, transportation of the coffin (including those going outside the metro), the storage of the bodies at the mortuary and all related expenses.
She said the provincial government further received support from private individuals and private sector companies with catering.
Delivering the eulogy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the youngsters should not have died and that their deaths could have been prevented had the law been adhered to.
Ramaphosa called on municipal authorities and local law-enforcement officials to heed calls and complaints from communities, and not ignore them.
He also alluded to the inadequate proper facilities for sports, youth centres, and libraries in Scenery Park and many other townships.
“Our young people are tavern hopping because there is nowhere else for them to go and have a good time.
“As communities, we must unite to organise safe and age-appropriate recreational and social activities for our young people, so they are not lured to dangerous places,” he said.
He said provincial and national liquor authorities must increase enforcement by monitoring registered outlets and closing down unregistered ones.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who recounted what happened when he arrived at the scene, said parents were not supposed to bury their children.
Cele said the police working with Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane would undertake a programme to resolve concerns that had been raised by the community.
Cele said some of these concerns included the lack of arrests made in relation to the incident. However, he said the investigating team was still working on the case to ensure that it was watertight.
Cele promised the community that the investigating team would leave no stone unturned and that no one would be spared, including the three spheres of government, police, liquor board, and shebeen owners.
Cele also confirmed that reports had been received from the community that there were outstanding complaints against the tavern.
He said a team had been deployed to investigate police interventions after receiving such complaints.
One of the parents, Xolile Malangeni, said while some families were coming to terms with what had occurred, they would not find closure until they knew what caused the deaths of their children.