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NYDA likens Enyobeni tavern tragedy to 2000 incident when 13 children died in Throb nightclub in Chatsworth

Members of the pathology department carry bodies from the Enyobeni tavern where 21 children died on Sunday.
Members of the pathology department carry bodies from the Enyobeni tavern where 21 children died on Sunday.
Image: MARK ANDREWS

How can it be that 22 years after 13 children were killed in a stampede in Chatsworth the same tragedy is happening again?

That was the question posed by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on Tuesday when it said the deaths of 21 children at an Eastern Cape tavern was déjà vu of what happened at Throb nightclub in KwaZulu-Natal when 13 children were killed.

“Twenty years ago, young people died in Chatsworth in a senseless nightclub tragedy. The pain of that has remained with that community and SA for two decades.

“At the time, South Africans collectively asked themselves what young people under the age of 18 were doing in a nightclub,” the NYDA said.

The Chatsworth pupils had been attending a matinee session hosted at the club on March 24 2000 when a stampede broke out after the detonation of a teargas canister on the dance floor. 

There were 600 children aged 11 to 14 celebrating the end of term at the club. More than 100 were injured in the incident. 

“How can it be that we are facing the same tragedy again? Is this illustrative of our lack of progress as a country,” the agency asked.

The NYDA called on law enforcement officials to conduct a transparent and speedy investigation and to hold to account those responsible for the tragedy.

In the Eastern Cape incident at the weekend, hundreds of youth turned up at the Enyobeni tavern to celebrate the end of the school term in a “pens down” event. Some were there to celebrate two birthday parties after the event was marketed on the tavern’s Facebook pages. 

It was not immediately clear what led to the deaths of the 21 at Enyobeni as many were found slouched across tables and chairs while others seemed to have collapsed and died on dance floors. 

Survivors have said a substance was released into the air, leading to many experiencing difficulty breathing.

The incident has led to many questions about underage drinking and children being allowed into establishments that sell alcohol.  

The NYDA said it would meet its counterparts at the departments of women, youth and persons with disabilities, social development and communications to understand where legislation banning alcohol advertising is at and to call for fast tracking of the legislation.

“We will engage our counterparts in the police service to understand why clubs and  taverns are not being policed effectively.

“This is not an isolated incident where taverns are allowing underage drinking. The might of the law needs to deal with taverns and clubs carrying out illegal activity,” the agency said.

The agency welcomed the decision by the Eastern Cape Liquor Board to suspend the tavern’s licence.

It also called on parents and communities to work together with law enforcement to report these types of activities.

“Ultimately, we need to accept that the longer we lock young people and households out of meaningful economic activity, the more they will suffer mental health consequences and often turn to alcohol and substance abuse.”

TimesLIVE

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