Tragedy struck on a fateful night at the overcrowded Enyobeni tavern, where 21 patrons met a horrifying end due to a bouncer’s reckless discharge of a pepper spray-like substance.
This devastating incident, which occurred on the 26th of June 2022, has shaken the community and prompted legal action against the tavern owners, Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu, who now face accusations of violating the Liquor Act.
The heart-wrenching toll of this incident included the lives of twelve girls and nine boys, forever altering the lives of their families and the close-knit community. The trial that has followed seeks to uncover the events leading up to that tragic night and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
The harrowing testimony of witnesses has shed light on the horrific events that transpired that night. Among the witnesses, Nalo Mtizana stands as a key figure in the State’s case.
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Her chilling account recounted before Magistrate Kevin von Bratt paints a picture of chaos and tragedy. She described how the bouncer, entrusted with the safety of patrons, instead locked the door and fled the scene as panic and suffocation took hold.
What is particularly disturbing is that Siyakhangela Ndevu, one of the tavern owners, allegedly witnessed the unfolding tragedy but failed to take immediate action to assist the distressed patrons. Mtizana’s testimony underscores the horrifying reality that it was the patrons themselves who, amidst the chaos, attempted to aid those who had collapsed.
Furthermore, Mtizana revealed a shocking lapse in security protocols at the tavern. She and her three friends were not searched for weapons upon entering the establishment, raising questions about the tavern’s security measures and the bouncer’s competence in ensuring the safety of those inside.
Amidst the mayhem, the bouncer reportedly deployed a substance that exacerbated the panic and suffering of patrons, compounding the already dire situation. This witness’s account serves as a poignant reminder of the terror that unfolded that night.
While the exact details of how the door was eventually unlocked remain undisclosed in court, it is clear that the events of that night will forever haunt the survivors and the families of the victims.
Mbasa Mpafi, one of the survivors, shared a terrifying account in the days following the incident. He recounted the desperate attempts of numerous patrons to escape the chaos, only to find themselves trapped behind a locked door. Allegedly, a bouncer obstructed their exit, a grim testament to the magnitude of the tragedy.
Nontsikelelo Nokhele, an administration clerk from the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, emerged as the third witness in this trial. Her testimony shed light on her interactions with Vuyokazi Ndevu, one of the tavern owners, during the liquor license application process in 2020 and 2022.
Nokhele emphasized the stringent regulations regarding underage patrons and the necessity for security personnel to search patrons for weapons.
She reiterated that tavern owners must ensure that no underage individuals are allowed inside the establishment, and if there are suspicions, age verification must be demanded through identification documents. Those unwilling to comply should be promptly ejected from the premises.
The revelations about the ages of some of the deceased patrons, as young as 13 years old, sent shockwaves through the community and led to the revocation of the tavern’s liquor license and its subsequent closure by the Eastern Cape Liquor Board.
As the trial progresses, it remains a somber reminder of the devastating consequences of negligence and a stark warning about the critical importance of safety measures and responsible management in public establishments.
The Enyobeni tavern tragedy serves as a poignant lesson that will resonate within the hearts of the community for years to come. The trial will continue on the 19th of July, as the quest for justice and accountability presses forward.