Families say they have nothing to celebrate two years since Enyobeni Tavern tragedy

Pictures from inside the Enyobeni Tavern where 21 young people died. Picture: Henk Kruger Independent Newspapers

Pictures from inside the Enyobeni Tavern where 21 young people died. Picture: Henk Kruger Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 26, 2024


Today marks two years since 21 teenagers died at Enyobeni Tavern at Scenery Park in the Eastern Cape.

The underage teens were parting at the tavern after allegedly celebrating a “pens down” event in various places.

Families are still reeling in pain and seeking answers. They said they don’t know how to commemorate this tragedy.

Ntombizonke Mgangala, who lost a niece in the incident, told Newzroom Afrika on Wednesday that she is still devastated by Sinothando’s death.

“It has been two years since Sinothando and others passed on, we are not good, we are sad and disappointed, we are still trying to come to terms with the matter since there is nothing that we can do. She is gone and she is not going to come back,” said Mgangala.

Speaking on behalf of other parents, Mgangala said they were hoping that at least by now, they would’ve known what exactly happened, that led to the deaths of their children.

She highlighted the fact that they are still in the dark when it comes to know what led to the tragic passing of the teenagers and it is difficult for them to accept.

“We are still emotional, heartbroken and asking ourselves questions. We don’t even know what we will be celebrating the incident,” said Mgangala.

Pictures from inside the Enyobeni Tavern where 21 young people died. Picture: Henk Kruger Independent Newspapers

Suffocation was ruled out from the inception of the investigation. Mgangala said what is worrying them is that young people are consuming alcohol even now. She said they continue to host “pens down” events and consume alcohol excessively even after the tragic event that took away their children.

Enyobeni Tavern owners Siyakhangela Ndevu and Vuyokazi Ndevu were found guilty and fined R5 000 each or 100 days in jail for selling alcohol to underage individuals.

Siyakhangela, in a recent interview that is viral on social media platforms such as X and TikTok, said it had been hell.

“They charged me for selling alcohol to underage children but in court if you see the parents and everybody in court looks at me as a murderer. They are wrong. I did not kill anybody and I am not responsible for the death of anyone,” Siyakhangela said.

He said he was not even at the tavern when the tragedy occurred.

The convener of the National Liquor Traders Council, Lucky Ntimane, said: “The tragic incident of the June 26, 2022 at Enyobeni Tavern 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.

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 responsible and all applicable laws which govern the sale of alcohol are respected.

“It should never ever be in our industry where we mention a tavern and children in the same sentence, such should be confined to the unfortunate history which we now we have to confront this tragic anniversary where we come together with civil society and communities at large in pursuing a just society which shuns any action contrary to nation building and creating safe spaces in our communities.”

Ntimane said they will continue to work with provincial liquor boards across the country and all the relevant stakeholders comprising of SAPS, liquor manufacturers, community leaders and civil society at large to ensure that they address the scourge of alcohol abuse in the country and inculcate the spirit of trading responsible where they put the lives and health of the people first ahead of the profits.

Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission’s Eastern Cape provincial office (SAHRC ECPO), in collaboration with the South African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) and the Central Drug Authority (CDA), is set to host a critical webinar on the Enyobeni Tavern tragedy on Wednesday.

The event will delve into the harrowing incident that claimed the lives of 21 young people, unpacking the contents of its investigative report and highlight the urgent need to address underage drinking and its severe implications on children’s rights.

The Star