Enyobeni Tavern owners found guilty of selling alcohol to minors

Enyobeni Tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu. Picture: Bheki Radebe/Independent Newspapers

Enyobeni Tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu. Picture: Bheki Radebe/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 22, 2024


The owners of Enyobeni Tavern will face sentencing tomorrow (February 23) after being found guilty of selling alcohol to minors in the tragic case of the deaths of 21 youngsters.

Nine girls and 12 boys, aged 13 to 17, died in the catastrophe, and four individuals were said to be hospitalised in a critical condition.

Vuyokazi and Siyakhangela Ndevu, who are the tavern owners, made an appearance at the East London Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where many waited with bated breath for the verdict.

Upon discovering that 18 of the 21 fatalities were under the age of 18, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board filed a lawsuit against the Ndevus and revoked the tavern’s liquor licence.

The couple also faces charges of “responsibility for conniving with and permitting employees and agents to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18”.

According to reports, East London Magistrate Kevin von Bratt stated that only the testimony of Sinemihlali Haka, who was 17 at the time, could be trusted to condemn Vuyokazi and Siyakhangela Ndevu because there was a lot of circumstantial evidence presented by the State.

Haka had testified throughout the trial that no efforts were made to ascertain his age and that he had consumed alcohol in the tavern before the incident took place.

In a video of the court proceedings, Von Bratt expressed his scepticism that the kids were sold alcohol in the establishment, despite the evidence being very suggestive.

“I’m probably not alone in suspecting that a lot of young children might have been sold alcohol there. But while the evidence is strongly suggestive, I don't think it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that any other minor was sold alcohol. Out of the 21 deceased patrons, only the names of 10 people were written on the charge sheet.

“The charges make reference to 10 persons, nine of whom were randomly selected from the deceased; there is no shred of evidence that any of these people drank or purchased alcohol at Enyobeni.”

It’s reported that the case has been rescheduled for Friday to hear aggravation and mitigation of sentence arguments.

Meanwhile, the formal enquiry into the deaths of the minors is still set to begin before the Mdantsane Regional Court.

The Star

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