The death of 21 teenagers at the Enyobeni tavern in East London, Eastern Cape, over the weekend may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, it has been discovered.
Sources close to the investigation believe the children – aged 13 to 17 – could have been killed by toxic fumes that may have emanated from a petrol generator that was suspected to have been used inside the tavern.
Police crime scene experts are reported to have found a petrol generator inside the venue where hundreds of young revellers partied from Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Some witnesses and survivors who were at the tavern during the incident have confirmed there was no power at the venue, although no rolling blackouts were scheduled.
The spokesperson for the provincial government, Khuselwa Rantjie, says people are anxiously waiting for the details of what exactly happened.
“They are also patiently waiting to know what happened. At this stage as government we continue to appeal to communities and the world to give the investigators the space and time to deal with this matter and as soon as it is concluded it will be released.”
Calls for legislative changes
Meanwhile, the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAP) says legislative changes are needed to curb underage alcohol consumption.
SAAPA Director Maurice Smithers says broader societal issues are contributing to the growing number of adolescents who view drinking alcohol as glamorous.
“How would a 13-year-old child come to the conclusion that the best way to celebrate pens down is to go to a tavern and drink? They get that from somewhere. Where that comes from is from advertising. It comes from peer pressure. It comes from poor adult modelling. Society has failed those children. The government carries a major responsibility because the government does very little to actually change the reality and you know there are so many ways in which the issue is not being dealt with. And it has to do with the failure to recognise just how serious the problem is.”
Owner must account
Several Eastern Cape residents are calling on the owners of the Enyobeni Tavern to provide reasons behind teenagers being allowed to consume alcohol on their business premises.
Investigations are underway into the possible cause of the tragedy. Ntombizonke Mgangala’s 17-year-old child is among those who passed away.
“I am asking myself how could a parent – because I want to believe that he/she is a parent like myself – in this cruel world of drugs and substance abuse, how could a parent or someone in the business allow young people or children, because these are children, how could she offer alcohol to children free of charge? What was the motive behind the action?
Mgangala says she was surprised to learn that her teenager had gone to the tavern.
“She was 17 years old and it came as a surprise that she was at the tavern. She had some money that she was saving and she said she was going to take the money and use it on the 25th of June. All of a sudden she said she was going with her friends and she was going to come back. She then disappeared. We then tried to look for her but we couldn’t get her.“
Criminal charges have been laid against the owner: