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Enyobeni tavern owners found guilty of selling alcohol to minor

Couple set to be sentenced on Friday for 2022 tragedy where 21 schoolchildren lost their lives at the East London tavern after suffocating

Enyobeni tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu have been found guilty of selling alcohol to minors.
Enyobeni tavern owners Siyakhangela and Vuyokazi Ndevu have been found guilty of selling alcohol to minors.
Image: ziyanda zweni

Enyobeni tavern's owner and operational manager have been found guilty of selling alcohol to a minor.

Vuyokazi and her husband Siyakhangela Ndevu were convicted in the East London regional court on Wednesday by magistrate Kevin von Bratt.

The Ndevus were facing counts of selling or supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years, and responsibility for conniving with and permitting employees and agents to sell or deliver intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years.

Both pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The magistrate said there was no evidence that alcohol was sold to minors, except to Sinemihlali Haka, who was 17 in June 2022 when 21 young people lost their lives at the Eastern Cape tavern.

Haka testified during trial that he was sold alcohol at the establishment.

“The actual allegation the two are facing is that one Sinemihlali Haka, who was underage at the time he was sold [liquor] at the Enyobeni tavern on the evening in question, not that the accused sold alcohol to him or that they were aware of the fact that it  was being sold to him.

“But I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that he was indeed sold alcohol at Enyobeni that evening.

“He was 17 at the time. No attempt was made to verify his age. This obviously was an offence in terms of the [Liquor Act] and as such the two accused would be legally liable for that offence,” he said.

During the trial, both said they have given instructions to their employees not to sell alcohol to minors.

The judge said issuing instructions was not enough.

“It is overwhelmingly obvious from all the evidence that a lot of young people, most of them probably underage even if we don’t have specific names and ages, were present at Enyobeni.

“It is obvious this was tolerated by the accused, and there was no proper access control. Not a single person who testified here was asked for his age and had anyone else asked of [their] age despite the fact that minors were on the premises.

“I’m probably not alone in suspecting that a lot of young children might have been sold alcohol there. But while the evidence is strongly suggestive, I don’t think it has been proven beyond result that any other minor was sold alcohol.

“The court cannot, in a criminal matter, rely on suspicions or probabilities. In conclusion, the court finds the two accused are legally responsible. For the sale of alcohol to at least one underage person, you are found guilty.”

Sentencing is set for Friday.

DispatchLIVE


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