Still no closure for Enyobeni tavern families

A candlelight service was held on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the incident. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

A candlelight service was held on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the incident. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 27, 2024


Two years later, the families of 21 young people who lost their lives in the Enyobeni tavern tragedy in the Eastern Cape are still seeking closure about what really transpired on the day of their deaths.

A formal inquest into the event of June 26, 2022, where the teenagers, the youngest aged 13, lost their lives during a “pens down” celebration at the Scenery Park establishment in East London is still pending.

A candlelight service was held on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the incident which sparked widespread outrage in South Africa and made international headlines.

The tavern owners, Vuyokazi and her husband Siyakhangela Ndevu, were found guilty of selling or supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18. In February, the East London Regional Court fined each R5 000.

Ntombizonke Mgangala, who lost her niece, Sinothando Mgangala, said they were still looking forward to the day when justice would be served.

“What we know at this stage is that a formal inquest into the deaths commenced at the Mdantsane Regional Court, where it is expected that those who should be held criminally liable will be identified.

“Knowing what really happened, the cause of deaths of our loved ones and seeing the people responsible behind bars will bring some closure.

“It is difficult to move on without answers. The only thing that the Enyobeni owners were charged with and found guilty of is selling alcohol to underage children,” Mgangala said.

“The tavern still remains closed because of the ongoing inquest.”

The SA Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC’s) Eastern Cape head Dr Eileen Carter said they remained deeply committed to addressing the systemic issues that contributed to this devastating loss of young lives.

“Since the release of our investigative report, we have engaged extensively with the Eastern Cape Liquor Board regarding their responses to our findings and recommendations.

“We acknowledge the Liquor Board’s efforts in addressing some concerns. However, we remain resolute in our findings and insist on comprehensive measures to prevent such tragedies in the future,” said Carter.

“We are also awaiting reports from other key stakeholders, which are due at the end of July. These responses will be crucial in forming a holistic understanding and ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to safeguard our communities and uphold human rights.”

The commission has also made a formal submission on the Eastern Cape Draft Liquor Regulations for consideration by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs, and Tourism, she said.

“The SAHRC continues to advocate for stronger regulatory frameworks and enhanced oversight to protect our society from the adverse effects of alcohol abuse, particularly among the youth,” said Carter.

National Liquor Traders convenor Lucky Ntimane said the deaths were a reminder of the responsibility that liquor traders abdicated in their quest to maximise profits at the expense of people.

“The tragic incident, which we believe was wholly preventable, will remain a sad chapter in our country, but importantly, in our sector and industry which has been a cornerstone of the township economy,” Ntimane said.

“This incident enjoins us as the alcohol industry to pursue an agenda of alcohol harm reduction where our places of trade shall be safe spaces where alcohol is enjoyed responsibly and all applicable laws which govern the sale of alcohol are respected.

“We should never ever in our industry mention a tavern and children in the same sentence.”

Cape Times