Enyobeni tragedy sentence: 100 days in jail or fine for couple

The East London regional court in the Eastern Cape sentenced the Enyobeni tavern owners, couple Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu, on Friday.

Magistrate Kevin von Bratt instructed the couple to pay a fine of R5,000 each, or spend 100 days in prison.

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 same court on Wednesday. This was following a postponement 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. They were also charged with 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. He was the third defence witness who led evidence in court. The owners had 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 of the cashiers who was on duty at the 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 had 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.

At the time of publishing, it was not clear which option the couple chose. Whether to spend 100 days in jail or pay the R5,000 fine.

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