Premier calls for tavern's closure after patrons die

Onlookers and distraught parents converged on the scene of the death of a group of patrons at an East London tavern on Sunday morning.
Onlookers and distraught parents converged on the scene of the death of a group of patrons at an East London tavern on Sunday morning.
Image: Bongani Fuzile

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has called for the East London tavern where 18 patrons died on Sunday morning to be closed.

Mabuyane was speaking to the media after he arrived at the scene on Sunday morning following the news of the deaths of the patrons at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park.

The cause of death is yet to be determined but rumors are that a stampede broke out after security opened teargas or pepper spray in an attempt to disperse patrons.

Five others have been taken to hospital.

“We have got a terrible incident, how do you operate when you have done something like this? We are aware that the license is still valid, the law before the current review that is taking place was not really prohibiting that people can not [operate in residential areas], that’s why now we talk of rezoning where you get a license, you must make sure that you are in a proper space to trade,” said Mabuyane.

He told Daily Dispatch that even it was temporary, the tavern should stop operating. “I think the owner himself, he can not wake up tomorrow and start operating as if there were no lives lost, such a number of lives,” said Mabuyane.

Mabuyane said the government was currently reviewing the law to regulate the issues of trading licenses for taverns.

“You can’t just have a tavern right in the middle of the residential area like this. Clearly it’s a way of really activating young people to get involved in liquor,” said Mabuyane. He further urged police to look at whether the operator was compliant with the by-laws.

Mabuyane said he has spoken with police minister Bheki Cele, who is expected to arrive at the scene on Sunday.

“It’s a very bad, bad situation which should not have happened with our young people, with our young lives. It’s quite worrying, we are very much concerned as government, hence we are here,” said Mabuyane.

When DispatchLive arrived at the scene, a number of concerned residents said a number of those who were suspected to have died during the incident were under age and were there to “celebrate” the conclusion of June school exams.

“The law would have been broken if you allow minors [inside the tavern] by-laws stipulate on that if you break that law, you can not operate as if it’s business as usual,” said Mabuyane.

He said the problem of liquor consumption in communities should be fought collectively by parents and traders.



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