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S.Africa honors 21 youths killed in tavern tragedy

#S.Africa #honors #youths #killed #tavern #tragedy

South Africa on Wednesday offered an emotional goodbye to 21 people, mostly teenagers, who died under unclear circumstances at a township tavern last month in an incident that shocked the nation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa joined more than a thousand people for a memorial service at a stadium in Scenery Park, a township in the coastal city of East London, where empty coffins were laid out to symbolize the loss.

Eleven days after the bodies were discovered at the Enyobeni Tavern, the cause of death remains a mystery.

Police have yet to complete their investigation, although officers have ruled out a stampede and autopsy results have yet to be released.

“Someone has to answer for the tragedy,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele at the funeral service

Scores of mourners filled a large marquee where 19 coffins were laid out, and hundreds more people gathered outside to follow the ceremony.

Some broke down in tears while others sang prayers while a police band played the national anthem.

Undertakers said the coffins were empty. One family expected to bury their child after the service and the others would be buried later that week. According to local media, two of the victims had already been buried.

The youths died in what survivors have described as a struggle to escape the crowded venue, with one reporting a suffocating smell.

The gruesome discovery of their bodies was made on June 26th.

The youngest was just 14 and the oldest 20, according to birth dates listed on the memorial’s official program distributed on Wednesday.

Cele had previously said the youngest was 13 and the eldest was 17.

The fatalities showed no visible signs of injury, and officials have ruled out a stampede as the cause of death.

– “Hope of Our Nation” –

“As a nation, we are hurt by what has happened,” said Oscar Mabuyane, chief of the Eastern Cape Province, where East London is located, in a speech.

“(The) young people we want to bury here were the hope of their families and thus also the hope of our nation.”

Drinking in South Africa is legal for those over the age of 18.

But in township taverns, which are often located near family homes, safety and drinking age laws are not always enforced.

The tragedy has triggered a call for change.

“Alcohol … should never be a form of entertainment for our children,” Lucky Ntimane, national chair of the National Liquor Traders Association, said at the memorial service.

Nolitha Tsangani, a Scenery Park resident who lives near the Enyobeni tavern, said blame for the tragedy should be shared.

“We’re all wrong… the parents are wrong, sorry for the kid who’s dead I have to say,” she told AFP, while also pointing the finger of blame at the pub owner and the police.

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#S.Africa #honors #youths #killed #tavern #tragedy

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