S. Africa holds funeral for teenagers who died in tavern
China Daily

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa looks on as he joins mourners gathered in the coastal city of East London to grieve the still-mysterious deaths of 21 teenagers in a poorly ventilated local tavern, in East London, in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, July 6, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday presided over the mass funeral service for 21 teenagers who died in a tavern in the early hours of June 26.

The youths went to Enyobeni Tavern in Eastern Cape province to celebrate "pens down", which is usually done after learners complete their term ending examinations. In South Africa beer is sold to those over 18, and those under that age are not allowed in places where beer is sold.

Ramaphosa, addressing the mourners, said the nation is eager to learn the truth and see action taken against the owners of the tavern.

The youngest deceased was 13 years old.

"These are the lives we have lost. They are not just bodies and souls. Our nation has lost young people who wanted to become doctors, teachers, policemen and women, lawyers, actors, businesspeople and entrepreneurs. They wanted to serve their communities and serve their country. We are with you. We mourn with you. We are so sorry," Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa added communities should have places where youths can go and meet and not in taverns, which is a place where they are not allowed. He called for calm to allow police to complete investigations so the families could find closure. Ramaphosa called on stiffer enforcement of regulations.

Tembinkosi Kinana, Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner, appealed for calm and patience and space to complete the investigations.

He said: "The police humbly requests investigators be given sufficient space and time to conclude their investigation. At an appropriate time, a formal pronouncement on the outcome of the investigation will be made available by the relevant authority."

It is still unclear what caused the deaths of the children. The government has offered to ferry their remains to the burial sites of their choice. The government has sent psychologists and social workers to render support to the surviving victims and bereaved families. The Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality offered to waive the payment of burial fees for the 21 deceased.

Oscar Mabuyane, Eastern Cape province premier, pledged to ensure "no stone left unturned" to uncover what led to the death of the teenagers. He urged parents and the community to monitor their children and places where alcohol is sold.

He said: "We grieve with parents and families at this hour and ask for your patience in getting to the facts around this tragic event. We call on parents and legal guardians not to abdicate their responsibility to their children or minor children entrusted in their care."

The Provincial Liquor Board has temporarily closed Enyobeni tavern. It is not clear how long the tavern will be closed.