At least 22 teenagers, the youngest possibly just 13, died at the weekend after a night out at a township tavern in South Africa, in a tragedy whose cause remains unclear.
According to provincial health officials and the presidency, South African authorities are looking into the deaths of at least 22 young people who were found inside a popular tavern in East London. Eastern Cape province.
Many of those found dead in the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in the early hours of Sunday morning were teens, with the youngest reported to be just 13.
Police are puzzled as to what caused their deaths, with Police Minister Bheki Cele promising to get to the bottom of this mysterious incident.
There were no visible wounds on the bodies. Officials have ruled out a stampede as a possible cause and said autopsies would determine if the deaths could be linked to poisoning.
There are questions as to why the youngsters were inside a tavern serving alcohol, with the role of the police in stopping this also questioned.
Township taverns, sometimes known as shebeens, which are frequently located next to or even inside of family houses, are places where adults over the age of 18 are permitted to consume alcohol. But safety regulations and drinking-age laws are not always enforced.
We have a child that was there, who passed away on the scene
“This child, we were not thinking was going to die this way. This was a humble child, respectful,”said the parents of a 17-year-old girl.
Parents and officials said they understood many of the dead were students celebrating “pens down” parties held after the end of high-school exams.
The National Liquor Traders’ Lucky Ntimane believes that every tavern must follow liquor laws to the book, and none can operate without impunity.
Law enforcement authorities are said to be still investigating and the owner of the tavern had not yet been arrested.