South Africa’s alcohol problem has reared its ugly head again, following the death of 21 school-going children who died after attending a drinking party at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London, on Sunday.
Aware.org an organisation started by kwaito artist, Kabelo Mabalane, said the country has a big drinking problem, with children drinking as early as 13. One of the children reported to have died at the tavern is believed to be just 13-years old.
“South African children are drinking from a young age, and our country has the unenviable ranking of being the sixth-largest consumer of alcohol in the world. Statistics show that our children are in fact, drinking from as young as 13 years of age, an illegal sobering fact. We have to start a conversation easier to effectively address the problem of underage drinking,” the chief executive of aware.org said in a recent statement.
Many have decried how the owner of the two-storey building in the middle of the township could allow underage teens to take part in a drinking spree that has resulted in the death of 21 children.
According to residents, police have in the past ignored complaints about the noise and operating hours of this establishment but their complaints seem to have fallen on deaf ears, with the Eastern Liquor Board promising to take action against the tavern’s owner.
Yesterday, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board said it has met with the Enyobeni Tavern owner who allowed underage children to patronise his establishment. They had come to celebrate their midyear school holidays over the weekend.
On Sunday, forensic pathologists said initial results indicate that all 21 young people between the ages of 13 and 20, who died at the party had inhaled something that led to their deaths.
News of the deaths have sent shock waves across the country, with many South Africans questioning the appropriateness of allowing under-age children to take part in a drinking spree – with many saying the tavern owner, who is reported to be a foreign national, should be held to account.
Speaking to this newspaper, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, Mgwebi Msiya, confirmed that the board which sent out a statement condemning the incident on Sunday, said it had finally met with the owner of the tavern yesterday.