Guest Column

How many more kids will die before SA takes away the bottle?

2015-07-08 15:28
Residents stand outside the tavern where eight young women were killed after the staircase collapsed. Picture: Lindile Mbontsi/Daily Sun

Residents stand outside the tavern where eight young women were killed after the staircase collapsed. Picture: Lindile Mbontsi/Daily Sun

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Alison Visser


It will go down in history as one of the worst birthday parties ever. Young people were celebrating when a shot was allegedly fired into a packed tavern in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

A stampede occurred. Six young women were killed when a staircase railing collapsed and they fell three metres. Another two who were injured lost their lives en route to a hospital, when the vehicle that was transporting them crashed.

The youngsters were all under the age of 23. The youngest was 15. It was her birthday they had been celebrating. One of the women who died was pregnant.

Where does one start to lay blame?

The owner of the establishment has come under fire from all sides, and rightly so. There were teenagers under the legal drinking age in the tavern. Guns were allowed inside – and discharged. His staircase broke.

Tomorrow, the Western Cape Liquor Authority will decide whether or not to suspend his licence for the tavern. As a gesture of goodwill – let’s not call it guilt – the owner offered the families R1250 each to help with the funerals. Most families turned down the offer, not because they didn’t want the help but because they wanted more money.

But the fact of the matter is that the minors shouldn’t have been there.

The father of the birthday girl said he didn’t even know she was there.

“I don’t understand how these tavern owners can allow children that young in and sell alcohol to them. Surely many of them are parents too and know what it is like,” he was reported as saying this week.

Parents cannot be with their children every minute of every day. It is disturbing that this father did not know where she was. But how many children do things without their parents’ knowledge?

This problem goes deeper than kids sneaking out to have fun. It’s about changing people’s perspectives of alcohol and disregard for the law. Boozing it up in a tavern at the age of 15 was not appropriate. Plus it was against the law. But many youngsters believe that drinking is cool. And what cooler way is there to spend your birthday?

The government has vowed to clamp down on booze. There have been bans on alcohol advertising. The proposed Liquor Policy Review has suggested that owners and employees of such establishment should be held responsible for incidents such as car accidents that happen as a result of liquor consumption on their premises. There is also a proposed raising of the legal drinking age to 21.

Had all these laws been in effect and – here’s the rub – been adhered to, that child and her friends wouldn’t have been in that tavern.

But making laws is one thing. Ensuring that they are implemented and respected is another thing, especially in a society where booze is so big, so lucrative and so adored.

Read more on:    khayelitsha  |  alcohol

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