Eastern Cape tavern tragedy: They danced, fell and died - Bheki Cele

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has sent a team of forensic investigators from head office to investigate the deaths of 21 children at a tavern in East London.
Police Minister Bheki Cele has sent a team of forensic investigators from head office to investigate the deaths of 21 children at a tavern in East London.
Johnnie Isaac
  • Bheki Cele says the East London tavern victims started dying from 02:13 on Sunday. 
  • The victims died as they danced; the youngest was 13. 
  • Cele said a few others felt dizzy, slept on the sofa and died. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele says the 21 teenagers, who died on Sunday morning at an East London tavern, died as they danced. 

Speaking at the Rural Safety Summit in Parys, Cele said the teenagers began dying from about 02.13 until 04:30.

Twelve boys and nine girls were confirmed dead at the Enyobeni Tavern.

The youngest victim was 13 years old.

Cele and SAPS national commissioner General Fannie Masemola visited the area on Sunday afternoon.

They die[d] as they danced. They dance, fall, and die – literally. Others would just feel dizzy, sleep on the sofa, [and] die. It tells you the story that they were all kids because somebody should have taken note.


"So, what they would do, as you fall, they would put you aside and dance - which tells you that these were kids who were supposed to be under their parents' supervision," Cele said.  

Cele said when he spoke to the community about the incident on Sunday, they were "heavy" on police, asking where they were when the partygoers were dying.

"Come on, the 13-year-old dies at 06:00 in the morning, 05:00 or 04:00, [and] you are asking where the police are? Really? Really? A 13-year-old dies in a shebeen at 04:00 in the morning?"

The national police are assisting their local counterparts in finding out precisely what happened to the victims who died.



The victims were found dead at the tavern in Scenery Park early on Sunday morning, seemingly with no visible injuries.

Images circulating on social media since Sunday showed bodies of young people scattered across the floor of the tavern, while others could be seen motionless on tables and couches.

READ | Enyobeni tavern tragedy: What we know so far

In a statement on Monday, the Eastern Cape health department said only 16 of the bodies had been identified, while five others had not yet been claimed.

The department said some of the survivors of the tavern tragedy were still being treated in hospitals for backache, tight chests, vomiting and headaches. 

Post-mortems on the victims' bodies had been completed - and autopsy results would be available once the forensic samples taken had been analysed.


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