Cape Town - The last time Ntombizonke Mgangala saw her niece, Sinothando, was when she was begging the teenager not to go out because it was already so late.
Hours later she was among the East London residents anxiously waiting to hear if their children were among the 21 killed mysteriously at the Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park.
Police said they received a report of the discovery of bodies of teenagers, the youngest aged 13, at 4am on Sunday.
Mgangala told the Cape Times on Tuesday how she tried to stop Sinothando from going to the tavern party, but she went anywhere.
“On the day of the event I tried to stop her from going as it was already late, but that was in vain. She promised me she would not be going anywhere, and even gave me a look that was convincing. Yet she went. She even demanded the money she was saving in the past month. She said she will need it and she will use it on the 25th.
“We are heartbroken. It is still early stages and we are just trying to cope with the matter, but it is not easy at all. This is a child we were hoping will take the family high, as she was the first from her father’s side who was about to do Grade 12. She was in Grade 11,” Mgangala said.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said the investigation into the incident were still ongoing, with no new information available.
Authorities said 20 bodies have been identified and taken by their families, while one body is yet to be identified.
A call has been made to parents or relatives in the community who may have not seen their children since the weekend to make enquiries at the mortuary.
A team of psychologists and social workers has also been dispatched to the community to render psycho-social support to the surviving victims and affected families.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has appointed an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) to coordinate government support to the affected families.
“We are pleased and appreciate the outpouring of love, prayers and messages of support from general members of civil society to the grieving families and the Scenery Park community at large. We believe this will help all affected to deal with the pain and suffering that comes with this tragedy,” he said.
While the cause of death is yet to be determined, survivors of the incident claimed there was a strong smell of some type of gas or pepper spray in the air, hours before the bodies were discovered.
The Eastern Cape liquor board has since shut down the tavern, adding that they will lodge a criminal complaint against the owner for selling alcohol to persons under the age of 18.
Western Cape civil society organisation Cape Forum expressed its sadness over the incident.
The organisation's head, Heindrich Wyngaard said: “The government and communities should use this opportunity to jointly instil a sense of responsibility among our youth and point out the positive alternatives to taverns and pubs that exist in every community. This is not to blame the victims for what occurred. We pray that this tragedy will never repeat itself, especially at the end of Youth Month celebrations."