‘Mr President, South Africa is tired’ – Enyobeni relative tells Cyril Ramaphosa at mass funeral

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A mass funeral is currently under way in East London at Scenery Park Sports Field to remember the lives of the teenagers who died Enyobeni Tavern.
A mass funeral is currently under way in East London at Scenery Park Sports Field to remember the lives of the teenagers who died Enyobeni Tavern.
Lulama Zenzile

It's one of the saddest sights South Africans have seen. Almost two dozen coffins lined up as families gather to send off their children at a mass funeral in East London.

The whole country has tuned in and during one of the eulogies, the relative of one of the children addressed President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Relatives were called upon to read the obituaries of the 21 teenagers who died at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London.

A man, who did not state his name, was on stage to read the obituary of Bongolethu Ncandana. After reading it, he asked to address President Ramaphosa, who is in attendance.

Read more | 'Don't blame parents for Scenery Park tragedy' - psychologist says after teenagers die in tavern

“Mr President, ndizothatha umzuzu omnye (I will only take one minute). South Africa is tired, isizwe ezimnyama siyaphela (the black nation is dying).”

He then walked off stage.

Today at the mass funeral, hundreds of people have gathered to pay their last respects.

Some of the children were buried yesterday, so only 19 coffins are at Scenery Park Sports Field.

When President Ramaphosa delivered his speech, he spoke about the dreams that had died with the teens. "Some wanted to be lawyers, artists, businesspeople and police officers,” he said.

“Much as they are obituaries, I felt I should give some details. They are not just numbers. Our nation has lost people who had dreams and high hopes to become something important in their lives.

Read more | ‘I couldn’t drink after seeing dead bodies’ – eyewitnesses share harrowing Enyobeni tavern accounts

“The young people we are lying to rest here today were exceptional in many way. This also shows the investment our government has put in their lives from birth to their adolescence. We are here to share condolences and we are not here to judge them.

“A tavern is not a place where young underage people should be going. It is a place for older people. These were young people who wanted a place to gather and celebrate the end of their exams. It is sad that there people blaming the parents and the young people.

“There is, however, blame that has to be laid. Yes, from national government, provincial, police, tavern owners, there is blame to be placed. We have seen the pictures and videos of Enyobeni, children should not have been allowed. What was happening in my own view, was against the law."

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