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Government asks for more time to confirm Enyobeni Tavern tragedy cause of death

A team of three prosecutors and five police officers have been assembled to investigate the tragedy that left 21 young people dead at Enyobeni Tavern in East London. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

A team of three prosecutors and five police officers have been assembled to investigate the tragedy that left 21 young people dead at Enyobeni Tavern in East London. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 6, 2022

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Johannesburg - More tests will need to be done to determine the cause of death of the 21 youths who died at Enyobeni Tavern in East London last month after a stampede was ruled out.

Eastern Cape department of health deputy director general for clinical services Dr Litha Matiwane on Wednesday told mourners at the mass funeral of 19 of the victims held at the Scenery Park sports ground that post-mortems discounted the possibility of a stampede being the cause of death.

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The 21 young people aged between 13 and 20 died at the tavern in the early hours of Sunday, June 26.

According to Matiwane, a forensic pathology team consisting of two doctors and forensic pathology officers attended the scene, where they discovered 17 bodies, and the remaining bodies were found at the Frere Hospital in East London.

“Post-mortems were done on the same day. It was decided that samples should be taken to Cape Town for toxicology to test if there are no poisons in the victims’ bodies,” he said.

Matiwane said the department, the police and the toxicology lab in Cape Town are in constant communication as they wait for the results.

“The forensic team is satisfied that death as a result of a supposed stampede can be ruled out. While the post-mortems were being conducted the team discovered that claims of a stampede as the cause of death was not true,” he explained.

Matiwane said some clothing items of the deceased went to the police, and they have been informed that the clothes have been sent for further analysis to the toxicology lab in Cape Town.

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”It is very important that we base our findings on evidence that has been collected. It is for that reason we are asking for your patience and that you wait because this is a sensitive matter,” he added.

Matiwane warned that any premature announcements could have negative consequences.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the investigation into the tragedy is prosecution-driven, with three prosecutors and five police officers.

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“There are questions on who has been arrested. I was in a meeting with the investigating team and national commissioner (General Fannie Masemola) and we were also asking the same question. Their response was that there is a mystery of alcohol laws,” he said.

Cele said the investigation team wanted to ensure that when they make arrests, they have a solid case.

”Community members also say the matter was reported to the police. That is why we have dispatched a team from the headquarters of the Civilian Secretariat for Police to find out what the police did to respond to the community’s concerns,” he said.

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