Six bodies remain unidentified after the Enyobeni tavern tragedy in East London

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The process of identifying the bodies of the 21 people who died in the Enyobeni tavern tragedy in East London is underway. The tavern remains closed while the investigation continues.

Police spokesperson Brig Thembinkosi Kinana says not all the bodies have been identified yet.

“The death toll is still standing at 21 however, six bodies remain unidentified in the local mortuary an appeal is made to the parents and relatives who may have not seen their children since the past weekend to please make time to make an inquiry by the mortuary. We are also calling on those parents whose children may have survived to please visit hospitals for medical checkups.”

Police say the investigation team is still on site piecing together the events leading up to the tragedy. “The SAPS requests to be given sufficient space and time to conclude the investigation. At an appropriate time, a formal statement on the outcome of the investigation will be made by the relevant authority. We have not made any arrests at this stage,” Kinana adds.

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The entertainment manager of Enyobeni Tavern, Promise Matinise, says there was a lack of manpower to deal with the overcrowding at the establishment.

Matinise says some patrons even forced their way into the tavern. He says they did everything possible to try and control the situation.

“We did everything we could to make sure that everyone is safe here but when it started to be overcrowed we lost control and our capacity could not accommodate everyone. We did not know what to do so we could not control the commotion a lot of people arrived here from other places and they were drunk. We tried to control it so we do not know what happened because we’ve always hosted events here we did not expect people to die.”

Enyobeni operating hours

A man who lives near the Enyobeni tavern, George Kwinana, says the establishment seemingly cared little for operating hours. Kwinana says he has witnessed overcrowding at the tavern before which created problems for the people who live nearby. At least 21 people, mainly teenagers, died in the early hours of Sunday morning inside the tavern.

“The shebeen runs till the early hours of the morning. We hardly sleep on weekends coz it gets packed, they even spill into our yards. When we confront the owner he says he does chase the kids away but they won’t leave.”

More questions on Enyobeni Tavern structural plans 

The South African Council of Churches ( SACC) has raised questions over whether the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality had approved the initial structural plans for the Enyobeni Tavern.

The SACC’s General Secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana says, “There are several questions that need to be asked about the specifications and what could have happened. When you hear that there was one door for exit, how does that happen? The rule of law must apply in our society. These regulations of the EC say there must be a structural floor plan to be used for liquor trading clearly showing each room, all doors and windows and means of external and internal communication. Where was this in this place? It is not clear. Proof of approval by the relevant local municipality – didn’t the municipality give permission for this shebeen?”

SACC’s General Secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana weighs in: