Enyobeni tragedy: Case against tavern owners postponed as State brings in new prosecutor

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Enyobeni tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu appear in court.
Enyobeni tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu appear in court.
PHOTO: Malibongwe Dayimani/News24
  • Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu are charged with violation of the Liquor Act. 
  • They stand accused of selling liquor to children on the night that 21 youths died at their tavern on 26 June.
  • The parents of the victims are demanding justice.

The case against the owners of the Enyobeni tavern in East London, where 21 youths died in June, has been postponed to 25 November after the State introduced a new prosecutor.

The tavern made headlines in June this year, after 21 teenagers died there under mysterious circumstances.

The owners, Siyakhangela Ndevu and his wife Vuyokazi, stand accused of violating the Liquor Act for allegedly selling alcohol to underaged patrons on the tragic night.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board opened the case after 12 girls and nine boys, some as young as 13, died inside the tavern and on their way to hospital. 

READ Fed up parents slam critics over Enyobeni deaths: 'Stop blaming us, your children also go to taverns'

The Eastern Cape health department said the children had died from suffocation inside the overcrowded venue. 

On Wednesday, East London Magistrate Kevin von Bratt told the court that a new prosecutor, advocate Tango Phangalele, would take over the case and needed to familiarise themselves with the docket and evidence before the court.

Von Bratt moved the matter to next month.

Siyakhangela Ndevu and his wife Vuyokazi stand in dock
Siyakhangela Ndevu and his wife Vuyokazi stand accused of violating the Liquor Act.
News24 Malibongwe Dayimani

Defence lawyer Precious Daniel said she was almost ready to proceed with the trial.

"I have been furnished with documents such as photo album and video footage today. I can only now finally say I can consult with my clients properly and cover any loopholes if there are any. We can finally say, on the 25th of November, we are ready to proceed with trial." 

Outside court, disgruntled parents maintained that the tavern couple should be charged with murder. 

Nombulelo Sanarhala, mother of 16-year-old victim Esinako Sanarhala, said: "The tavern circulated posters for the event promising free alcohol, [a] photoshoot, and Wi-Fi. Our kids are young so they fell for that." 

Sanarhala added:

The owners lured our children to their death, therefore that is murder.

Sanarhala also called on the justice department to move swiftly to ensure justice was served in the case.

"Yes, we agree they did not force the children to attend the tavern, but they coerced them by offering free alcohol," she said.

The double-storey tavern has since been shut down after the Liquor Board revoked its liquor licence. 

ALSO READ Enyobeni tavern was 'built illegally' - and had violated trading hours, municipality says

But the parents are not happy, claiming that the owners may be operating four other taverns elsewhere. 

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board could not verify this, but promised to investigate the allegations. 

The Buffalo City Metro previously revealed that the tavern’s structure was built illegally and may be knocked down. 

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