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Enyobeni tavern tragedy: Who should take responsibility for rearing black kids?

Minister of Police Bheki Cele outside Woodbrook State Mortuary during a short prayer by families of 21 people died in Nyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in East London. The cause of the the deaths are unknown. Picture by BHEKI RADEBE

Minister of Police Bheki Cele outside Woodbrook State Mortuary during a short prayer by families of 21 people died in Nyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in East London. The cause of the the deaths are unknown. Picture by BHEKI RADEBE

Published Jun 30, 2022


As Youth Month draws to an end, it’s definitely closed on a sour note.

Last weekend, 21 teens died at a local tavern in Scenery Park in the Eastern Cape, which has left South Africa grieving and reeling in pain.

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The images of those young black kids lying lifeless on the ground has left many scarred and full of questions. What could’ve been done to protect these kids?

A forensic team outside Nyobeni tavern in Scenery Park township in East London , where 21 people died. The cause of the the death is unkown. Picture by BHEKI RADEBE

A few weeks before the incident, a video of a woman dressed in a gown dragging a young girl in an on-looking crowd of partygoers trended on social media. Some commended the woman, and some criticised her actions. Although the mother’s actions may be seen as extreme to some, she was exercising her parental rights and protecting her child.

The lady in question is a hero in my eyes because I hate the narrative that tends to be perpetuated in media that black kids can do whatever they want without parental guidance and where parental guidance is evident, the parents are demonised and labelled as overprotective or overbearing when it comes to fiercely protecting their kids.

The attack on black parenting never sits well because you would expect a lioness to defend its cub, but as soon as a black mother stands her ground and territory in protecting or defending her child, she’s an adversary to her own? No. Black parents should be allowed to parent the way they see fit, just like every other race.

A mother embraces her child. Picture:

Following the scenes from the Nyobeni Tavern, the big question is who should be held accountable for the young lives that were lost. Is it the establishment? Is it the parents, or is it our government? One Twitter user expressed that parents can’t be blamed as teens are tricky to handle, and some users shifted blame onto the government, which, despite having strict laws with regards to the sale and use of alcohol, failed to implement these laws.

I hear both arguments. However, I do believe that we, as a society in general, should also take accountability and responsibility for this loss. Most of us here today made it because we grew up in a society that knew that it takes a village to raise a child.

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Elders never turned their backs on us when it came to steering us in the right direction. We grew up in structured communities, where an elder could enforce discipline at any given moment. Respect was the order of the day, and if I was caught going astray, I’d either get reprimanded or my parents would be alerted to my transgression and be given the opportunity to deal with it accordingly.

An old man secures a young girl while she sits on a branch of a tree. Picture:

If I was seen smoking or bunking in school uniform, my school would be alerted by members of the public, up to the point that the matter would surely reach my parents. Being your brother's keeper was not shunned upon.

In fact, it was seen as noble and encouraged. With that being said, how many adults turned a blind eye to Nyobeni Tavern selling alcohol to under age kids and hosting “pens down parties?'' How many adults kept quiet, knowing that the establishment wasn’t following the law when it came to closing times? Thirdly, how many adult hands did those young black children slip through?

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Two young girls hold onto each other while they explore a garden. Picture:

Why are we failing our young black kids by leaving them to their own devices when we know very well that the world is harsh and unkind?

As our African values deteriorate and are kicked to curb for the uptake of western values, have we noticed that it’s leaving our children vulnerable and unprotected? How is that working for us? What do we need to do as a community or society to get our kids back on a healthier path and no, the answer is not with government intervention.

The solutions we seek to fix our communities and our society lie within us. The question is: are we ready to make the changes that are required to uplift black kids and make our communities better? The death of these kids should show us that black kids are lost and are in need of leadership, guidance, mentorship but most importantly, they are in need of care and love.

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