- Enyobeni tavern owner Siyakhangela Ndevu made his first appearance in the East London Magistrate's Court on Friday.
- He stands accused of violating the Liquor Act by selling alcohol to underage children the night 21 people died.
- Angry parents and residents want him charged with murder.
While the cause of death of the 21 teens at the Enyobeni tavern in June is still under investigation, parents and residents want owner Siyakhangela Owen Ndevu to be charged with murder, instead of violating the Liquor Act.
This comes as the 52-year-old Ndevu made his first appearance in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
He stands accused of selling liquor to underage children on the night the 12 girls and nine boys died at his establishment.
The case was opened by the Eastern Cape Liquor Board just days after the tragedy at Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park.
No one has been charged for the deaths of the children, and the cause of death is still under investigation.
READ | Enyobeni tragedy: Tavern owner, two staffers arrested
But residents, parents and relatives of the children sang outside the court calling for Ndevu to be charged with murder.
Khululekile Ncandana, a leader of the "Enyobeni parents' task team", who lost his son Bhongo, said the owner should account for the deaths.
"There is nothing being said about the deaths, he should be charged for the deaths too.
"I saw him today. He showed no remorse at all and looks very happy and healthy, while we as parents are suffering due to the loss of our kids."
Bhongo's mother Ntombomzi Ncandana added: "We want him locked inside in jail with other awaiting trial prisoners."
ANC Youth League regional spokesperson Andisiwe Kumbaca said they were outraged that Ndevu was still "roaming the streets".
The league has called for tougher measures and sentences to be imposed on people who sell liquor to underage children.
Kumbaca added: "Authorities should move with purpose and speed to ensure that those who disturb the focus of children, delaying their dreams or killing their future by feeding them alcohol, face maximum prison sentence. Robbing a person’s hopes and dreams is tantamount to murder."
Ndevu previously told News24 that he was not at the venue when the tragedy occurred.
He said he was as shocked as the rest of the community.
READ | Enyobeni tavern: Final toxicology report completed but findings not released
"I am deeply saddened by what has happened. Such things occur when you’re not expecting. I am willing to cooperate with the police," he said at the time.
Nomawethu Mboyiya, mother of Sisanda Mahlakahlaka, said she did not understand why Ndevu was not in police custody.
Ndevu was never arrested, but issued with a summons to appear in court.
News24 asked police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana why Ndevu had not been taken into police custody.
His response will be added once received.
Magistrate Kevin von Bratt postponed the case to 2 September for a pre-trial conference.
This is after Ndevu’s lawyer Precious Daniel told the court that she was not privy to CCTV footage in possession of the State.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said the defence and prosecution would meet to bring each other up to speed about the case.
Ndevu was all smiles in court and was accompanied by his wife Vuyokazi Ndevu.
Tyali told journalists outside the court that the Enyobeni tavern was registered to his wife, but that the NPA had charged him because he had been in charge of day-to-day operations, including on the night of the incident.
Asked what Ndevu’s sentence would be should he be found guilty, Tyali said violation of Liquor Act charges did not have a prescribed sentence.
"Therefore, the magistrate will use his prerogative to sentence him."