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Tavern of death did not comply with by-laws

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where underage children were found dead. Image : Bheki Radebe, African News Agency (ANA)

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where underage children were found dead. Image : Bheki Radebe, African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 3, 2022

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Siyabonga Sithole

With the police yet to finalise their investigations into the tragedy at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, last Sunday (June 26), Buffalo City spokesperson, Samkelo Ngwenya says the metro’s preliminary investigation shows the establishment was operating illegally and in contravention of municipal by-laws.

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A total of 21 teenagers died in the incident which left the country stunned. The exact cause of the youngsters’ deaths is not yet known.

Ngwenya, in a statement issued after allegations of the tavern operating illegally, said based on the visuals of the structure, the metro's preliminary investigations showed that there were no building plans received and approved by the municipality for structural renovations on the site identified as erf 37309 in Scenery Park.

"There was no building plan approved and therefore, the building was constructed illegally in contravention with section 4(1) of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1997. According to our records, there is no copy of approved building plans ... “ he said.

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Ngwenya added that, according to legal requirements, the structure of the tavern was not approved for business and that the owner should have applied for permission to alter the structure and rezone it as a business establishment which was not done.

"Our directorate of spatial planning and development did not receive an application or correspondence from any parties to rezone nor verify the zoning of the property.

"We can also confirm that in terms of by-laws, the establishment had no approved application for departure on their original trading hours to be extended.“

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The municipality said their preliminary investigations showed that the owner of the property failed to comply with regulations.

Meanwhile, the East London police have refused to comment further over the ongoing investigations into the cause of the tavern deaths and have encouraged members of the public to refrain from speculating and spreading rumours until the investigation was completed.

"As clearly articulated in a statement released by SAPS on Monday (last week) regarding the ongoing investigations, SAPS forensic investigators are still continuing with the investigation into the deaths of 21 children.

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“... an investigation into the building structure where the incident allegedly took place was conducted ... (from) the bodies (on which) autopsies were conducted, exhibit specimen were extracted (and) taken to the forensic laboratory for toxicology examination.

"Until such time that the work of the forensic laboratory is concluded, any informal and unofficial information which is not released by the SAPS, must be regarded as falsehood and misleading to the public and the affected deceased families," provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Nomthetheleli Mene said.

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