Enyobeni tavern tragedy: owners found guilty

The two owners of Enyobeni tavern, Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu,  have been found guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The duo was found guilty of contravening the Liquor Act by selling alcohol to persons under the age of 18. This led to the Enyobeni tragedy, where 21 teenagers lost their lives in June 2022. The tragic incident happened at the tavern, which operated in East London, in the Eastern Cape.

First appearance this year

The couple made their first appearance this year before the East London regional court on Wednesday. This was following a postponement that took place in November 2023.

Among other charges that the Ndevus were facing is that of: selling or supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years, and conniving with and permitting employees and agents to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years.

Despite them pleading not guilty, the court listened to the closing arguments on the trial and issued a verdict.

Contradictions on the case:

There was a contradiction between the tavern’s employee, Sivuyile Gqamlana, who was the third defence witness who led evidence in court. The owners denied that the teenagers were served alcohol at the establishment. They alleged that they came to the establishment already intoxicated.

However, Gqamlana paid a R2,000 admission of guilt fee for his role in the sale of liquor to underaged children. He is one the cashiers who was on duty at the Enyobeni tavern on the night of the tragedy,  

Pens-down celebration gone wrong:

On June 26 2022, the teenagers made their way to the establishment  for a pens-down celebration. This is a celebration to mark the end of school exams.

Initially, it was believed that the children died from chemical poisoning based on the autopsies. However, the final report suggests suffocation from overcrowding as the cause of the teenagers’ deaths.

The parents of the teenagers accused the government of “treating them like fools”. This was following contradictory statements regarding the cause of the teenagers’ deaths.

Deceased 21 patrons remembered:

In June 2023, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board held a 21km fundraising race in remembrance of the deceased. The families and friends of the deceased also hosted a commemorative event.


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