Cape Town - The double-storey Enyobeni tavern in East London, where 21 young people died under mysterious circumstances was illegally constructed and its renovations were never approved, according to the Buffalo City Municipality (BCM).
This as police expressed concerns about widespread rumours and reports speculating on the cause of death in the tragedy.
Police said they received a report of the discovery of bodies of teenagers, the youngest aged 13, at 4am on Sunday.
All 21 bodies have since been identified after a call was made to parents or relatives in the community who may have not seen their children since the weekend to make enquiries at the mortuary.
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the municipality did not receive any land use application and no departure was granted for the operation of a tavern on the site.
The establishment also had no approved application for departure from its original trading hours to be extended.
“There were no building plans received and approved by BCM for the structural renovations on Erf no 37300 in Scenery Park. According to our records, there is no copy of approved building plans because the building was built illegally.
“The Erf is zoned in terms of the BCM Land Use Scheme as Residential Zone 3A (Single Residential). The process is that the owner should apply to rezone from residential to business in order to operate such an establishment, be it a tavern/shebeen. Our Directorate of Spatial Planning and Development did not receive any application or correspondence to verify the zoning for this property,” Ngwenya said.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said investigation into the matter was still ongoing and no arrests have been made.
“The SAPS management in the Eastern Cape has expressed concerns about circulating rumours and media reports speculating on the cause of death in the tavern tragedy incident. As clearly articulated in the statement issued on Monday regarding the ongoing investigations, SAPS forensic investigators are still continuing with the investigation. Until such time that the work of the forensic laboratory is concluded, any informal and unofficial information which is not released by the South African Police Service, must be regarded as falsehood and misleading to the public and the affected deceased families,“ he said.
ANCYL Regional Treasurer and resident Aseza Somagaca said the community has on numerous occasions expressed its frustrations with the tavern owner about underage drinking in his business.
“The tavern has been here for years, it started as a small tavern that was hardly attended to and it was only renovated this year and named ‘Enyobeni’. We complained, we even repeatedly complained to the police numerous times, not only about the time of closure but also about the participation of underage children. The owner knows all about the frustrations the community had about his business. But we also ask ourselves how did the liquor board issue out a license to a place like that, a place that only has one entrance and a place the municipality did not zone for business?. Answers to those questions we don’t have,” he said.
Eastern Cape liquor board spokesperson Mgwebi Msiya said at the time of issuing a liquor license, the establishment complied with their requirements
“We granted this outlet a license based on the building plans and structure that met our criteria. However it would seem that they have since made alterations without letting us know as the board. Otherwise at the time of issuing a liquor license the establishment complied with our requirements,” he said.