The Scenery Park community where 21 young people died at a tavern last month is drowning under a huge number of liquor outlets, with many said to be operating illegally.
The mass funeral for the victims was held at the Scenery Park sports ground on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Police Minister Bheki Cele were among the mourners.
When the funeral started, several mourners, some inconsolable, could be seen taken out of the tent.
A woman - a relative of one of the deceased - collapsed before the funeral and had to be rushed to hospital.
All families were afforded a few minutes to deliver their children’s eulogies. However, some of the families were too emotional to go up to the podium.
The Tshemese family, who lost their 15-year-old son, Sikelela, asked the Buffalo City Metro municipal officials to read the eulogy.
Ramaphosa described each victim as a beautiful soul. He said:
He said Sikelela was known as “quiet, respectful and helpful around the home”.
Ramaphosa said the high number of liquor outlets in the area was detrimental to the youth.
“Blame must be laid at the feet of those who make money off the dreams and lives of the young people of South Africa by breaking the law and selling them alcohol.
“Children should not have been allowed inside that place, a place of adults. They should not have been served alcohol.”
He said the liquor problem had spread to other parts of the metro and the Eastern Cape.
READ: Enyobeni tragedy: ‘Let’s tighten and enforce our laws’ says Mabuyane as 19 are laid to rest
“What was happening was illegal.
“In Scenery Park, Duncan Village, Mdantsane and Malinda, across East London, across the Eastern Cape and across the country, there are liquor establishments putting profits before the lives of the children of this country.”
He raised concerns about townships having no recreational facilities and the effects of alcohol on young people.
Ramaphosa urged the provincial government to take action.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines at the service, Mabuyane assured mourners that all funds utilised to organise the state funeral for the Enyobeni tavern victims had been spent according to government procurement procedures.
He said they had “tightened” procurement processes to avoid the funds meant for the funeral expenses being stolen by greedy officials. He referred to the 2013 Nelson Mandela burial scandal that saw several ANC and Buffalo City Metro officials arrested for fraud.
“So far, we have done almost 15 funerals that have been declared special government funerals since the Nelson Mandela funeral scandal.” He said:
“We have made sure that no problem of that nature occurs again. I have made it clear to the director-general that I don’t have time to entertain these issues and we’ve got to be strict.
“Even with the [Buffalo City Metro] municipality, we have to know what they spend on and allocate jobs accordingly.
“We don’t want to hear such stories post-funeral. We have been tight, and you can go back to check all the funerals we have done.”
The victims will be buried in private ceremonies between Friday and Sunday.