Government shouldn't have held 'fake' Enyobeni mass funeral with empty coffins, against wishes - EFF

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  • The Eastern Cape government went ahead with a mass funeral for victims of the Enyobeni tavern tragedy, despite the reservations of grieving relatives.
  • Some of the families of the 21 victims wanted to have small private ceremonies attended by friends and family.
  • The EFF has threatened to report the provincial government and Buffalo City Metro to the Public Protector for wasting public resources.

The families of the 21 youngsters who died at the Enyobeni tavern last month objected to a mass funeral for their loved ones, but the Eastern Cape government and Buffalo City Metro went ahead and organised the service with empty coffins. 

Now, the EFF in the Eastern Cape is up in arms, threatening to report the province and metro to the Public Protector for wasting public resources by forging ahead with a state-funded "fake" funeral.

On Wednesday, 19 empty coffins were displayed at the much-publicised funeral.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and some members of his Cabinet were in attendance.

On Thursday, the metro confirmed it had used empty coffins because relatives of the victims objected to having their bodies displayed in public.

The families said they wanted to bury their loved ones separately in small private ceremonies, attended by close friends and families. 

READ | Enyobeni deaths: Call to raise legal drinking age to 21, says Ramaphosa as he names all 21 victims

Considering the wishes of the families, the EFF said the state should not have gone ahead with a "fake" funeral.

The mass funeral was held at the Scenery Park Sport Field on Wednesday.

The programme director, Eastern Cape Community Safety MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, said only 19 caskets had been displayed because one family had already buried their loved one on Tuesday, while another family had said their final goodbyes to their relative on Wednesday morning.

More families are expected to bury their relatives this coming weekend.  

The EFF said it condemned the actions of the provincial government.

Its Eastern Cape chairperson, Yazini Tetyana, said:

This is a great wastage of public resources that could have effortlessly been used to provide service delivery to the community of Scenery Park, and be used to support the affected families from a wound that can never heal.

Tetyana said the party would write to the municipality and provincial government demanding an explanation and an answer on how much was spent on the funeral, adding it would lay a complaint with the Public Protector's office as well. 

Metro spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya denied the municipality went against the wishes of the grieving families.

He said: "The mass funeral was in line with the wishes of the families. They did not want their children’s bodies paraded in public, and we had to respect that. Burials will be done privately.

"We want to thank businesses, political parties and all other stakeholders who gave support to the families during their darkest time of need.

Cyril Ramaphosa at podium with coffins below
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses mourners at the service for those who died at Enyobeni tavern.

"We commend the community [of] Scenery Park, including the clergy, for their support throughout this period."

Sidima Rangile and Khululekile Ncandana, the respective fathers of friends Mbulelo Rangile and Bhongo Ncandana who died in the tavern tragedy, previously told News24 that they wished to bury their loved ones in private. 

Ncandana said this did not mean he disrespected government's intentions, but that he had based his decision on cultural and religious practices. 

Eastern Cape treasury spokesperson Phumelele Godongwana refused to comment when asked how much the province had spent on the funeral.

READ | Metro gives Scenery Park a facelift as tavern tragedy pushes township into the spotlight

"The funeral was organised between [the] Office of the Premier and Buffalo City Metro Municipality. They should be able to assist you."

The premier's comments will be added once received.  

Some of the dignitaries who attended the funeral were National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Police Minister Bheki Cele, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.    

The victims – 12 girls and nine boys – died on 26 June under mysterious circumstances while partying at the Enyobeni tavern.

Police are investigating the cause of the deaths.

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