Source rubbishes claims that tavern tragedy victims died of suffocation
Explanation ‘a distortion of the truth’
While desperate parents of the victims of the Enyobeni Tavern tragedy call on the president to have the results of what killed their children revealed, a well-placed source in the health department has told Daily Dispatch that the children did not die of suffocation, as claimed by officials, but from a combination of traumatic asphyxiation and poisoning from volatile substances.
Volatile substances are toxic chemicals, such as methanol, but not carbon monoxide.
“The explanation that the children were killed as a result of suffocation is a distortion of the truth,” the source said. “Why would you take more than two months to determine suffocation? Suffocation from what?”
The victims’ parents said they had reached boiling point on Friday, with some calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to help them get access to the document that details what caused the deaths.
The health department has refused to allow the parents to view CCTV footage of the incident.
On Thursday during a meeting with authorities, parents were told by the provincial health department to apply via the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) if they were not happy with the explanation from the Eastern Cape department that their children died as a result of suffocation.
This explanation has angered the parents.
Xolile Malangeni, the father of Esinako Siranarana, said: “What we were told was that our children died of suffocation. When I wanted to inquire, they said that’s confidential. They told us to apply via the PAIA act in court if we want further explanation.”
Malangeni said the cause of the death of their children was a matter of public interest.
“Some our children died at Empilweni Health Centre. You still call that suffocation? We want the truth. As parents we are calling on President Ramaphosa to assist us. We have been patient with authorities,” he said.
“We have been writing to the provincial government pleading with it to release the results. Why must we apply for the results of our children? The authorities even told us we cannot get to view the footage at the tavern.”
Provincial health spokesperson Siyanda Manana said : “We have sought a legal opinion on the matter and we were advised [that we should not disclose the cause of death to the public]. We have told parents what killed their children.”
But parents have refuted the claim. They say they were told of suffocation by word of mouth with no further explanations.
Manana said: “The parents know what to do. They are aware that they need to access that document via the PAIA act. That document must be able to stand the test, even if in a court of law.
“As the department we are not mandated to disclose [the cause of death to the public]. There are issues between the patient and the doctor. In this instance, it also becomes important that you do respect the right of the person, even if that person has passed on.
“The PAIA allows parents to access that document on behalf of their parents.”
The dean of law at Fort Hare University, Prof Mzukisi Njotini, said: “It is surprising, from a legal standpoint, that the government that is supposed to be in the service of the people is withholding the information.
“There is a notion of justice, which does not necessarily entail the notion of law, [which provides that] ethical decisions taken and processed [must be] in a manner that provides confidence to society.”
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