The inquest into last year’s Enyobeni tavern tragedy began on Thursday at the East London Regional Court, but was adjourned shortly afterwards until later this month.
The inquest has been postponed until September 11 so that the state can provide the contents of the dossier to the court and the legal representatives of the parties, said Luxolo Tyali, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). It was also moved to the Mdantsane Regional Court because there is not enough space in the Regional Court.
Barry Madolo, Eastern Cape director of public prosecutions, decided in April that an inquest should be held by a regional court magistrate to determine whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of the 21 minors in the tavern.
“At this stage it is unclear what caused the incident and therefore the state has refused to prosecute. During the inquest, witnesses, including experts, eyewitnesses and the owners of the Enyobeni tavern, will be expected to testify.”
Meanwhile, the state closed its case against Vuyokazi and Siyacheka Ndevu, the couple who own the tavern, in August and they are due to appear in court again in October. They are accused of supplying liquor. The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
A total of 17 teenagers died in the Enyobeni tavern and another four on their way to hospitals after they started experiencing symptoms such as a tight chest, vomiting and headaches. The children were all between 13 and 17 years old.
RNews reported earlier that the children apparently suffocated because the tavern was overcrowded. This was communicated to the children’s parents by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. However, they were denied access to the toxicology report.
Earlier, the authorities said there was apparently methanol and alcohol in the deceased’s bloodstream at the time of their death. It was added that there is still no conclusive evidence about the exact cause of the teenagers’ deaths.