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Tavern tragedy opens old wounds for Cape Town family

In 2015, tragedy struck the community of Makhaza in Khayelitsha when eight young women were killed at Osi’s Place on June 28 when a railing on the 3m-high staircase gave way. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

In 2015, tragedy struck the community of Makhaza in Khayelitsha when eight young women were killed at Osi’s Place on June 28 when a railing on the 3m-high staircase gave way. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 1, 2022

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Odwa Mkentane, Siphokazi Vuso, Okuhle Hlati

Cape Town - The mysterious deaths of 21 teenagers, including a 13-year-old, at an East London tavern this week have opened old wounds for a Cape Town family who lost their teenage daughter in similar circumstances, seven years ago to the week, when a Khayelitsha tavern partially collapsed, causing a stampede.

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“I was with my wife and family when we saw the East London incident on TV. My wife immediately burst into tears and to be honest my heart was sore because I was thinking about the pain the families of those children are going through. It’s what we went through too, and it’s what we are going through now,” said Mzuvumile Mbono.

In 2015, tragedy struck the community of Makhaza in Khayelitsha when Mbono’s daughter, Vuyolwethu Mbono, 17, was among eight young women killed at Osi’s Place on June 28 when a railing on the 3m-high staircase gave way.

Also killed in the incident were Ongeziwe Xekethwane, Abulele Nkepu, Athi Zokufa, Ongezwa Ndaba, Bongeka Cekiso, Dana and Zimkhitha Malinge.

The young women were aged between 15 and 23.

In an interview with the Cape Times on Thursday, Mbono said the deaths of teenagers at the Enyobeni tavern on Sunday were a reminder of the frustrations parents had with tavern owners for allowing access to underage youth.

“No parent deserves to lose their child in that way. It brought back old memories.

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“I thought I was starting to heal and to make peace that my daughter is no more, but now it’s like this incident just happened yesterday.”

Speaking about events leading to his daughter’s death, he said: “I am told that there were people who were pushing each other because they heard a gunshot inside.

“She and her friend were trying to get out of the place but she fell because she was being pushed, and you can imagine people panicking and wanting to get out. If you are down they are going to step on you.”

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He said the building was not in a good condition.

“The tavern owners must follow the rules of the liquor board and if they don’t, they must be arrested on the spot. Ever since that incident, I hated everything that has alcohol and whatever is associated with alcohol.

The tavern owner assisted the family with R1 000. Tell me, what can you do with R1 000 to bury your daughter?”

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Mbono still blames the owner of the establishment for allowing underage children to be there.

The Western Cape Liquor Licensing Tribunal unanimously found the owner of Osi’s Place breached his licence conditions by allowing minors on to the premises and to consume alcohol.

He also failed to ensure that clients left the premises in an orderly way. The tribunal ordered the permanent closure of the tavern. However, he was already barred from obtaining another liquor licence for the next five years.

Osi’s Place remains shut following the judgment.

Makhaza resident Andile Lili, who was the area councillor at the time, said the incident showed it was a disaster waiting to happen.

“The East London and Osi’s matters are similar in that owners flouted regulations, and children under 18 were on the premises drinking alcohol.

The Osi’s tavern owner had been warned about failure to comply with certain municipal by-laws a month before the tragedy. Liquor has an economic benefit to business people but it also destroys lives within communities.

“You would think after the 2015 incident lessons were learnt. But that is not the case in these areas and other communities.

Many establishments that have bouncers at the doors are not requesting IDs to double-check ages.

If a teenager looks old enough they are allowed inside and sold alcohol,” said Lili.

A mass funeral service for the deceased at Enyobeni will be held next Wednesday.

The owner of the tavern, Siyakhangela Ndevu, in a media interview this week said that he was called to intervene hours before the incident.

Police have said an investigation into the matter was still ongoing and no arrests had been made.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has expressed concern about the deaths of young people.

“We cannot allow the deaths of young people to be in vain. Twenty years ago, young people died at Chatsworth in a senseless nightclub tragedy. The pain of that has remained with that community and South Africa for two decades.

“At the time, South Africans asked themselves the question about what young people under the age of 18 were doing in a nightclub.

“How can it be that the same tragedy happens again? Is this illustrative of our lack of progress as a country?” said the NYDA.

Cape Times

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