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Tavern tragedy was preventable

Residents and family members gathering outside a tavern in Scenery Park where young people are said to have lost their lives in the early hours of Sunday morning in East London.
Residents and family members gathering outside a tavern in Scenery Park where young people are said to have lost their lives in the early hours of Sunday morning in East London.
Image: MARK ANDREWS

In the wake of the East London tavern tragedy, I am writing this shaking from grief and shock following the painful loss of lives.

Forensic pathologists have said the 21 young people, aged 14 to 20, who died had possibly inhaled or ingested something that led to their deaths.

Seeing police minister Bheki Cele weeping in front of cameras was proof that being a parent is not an easy task. It was so heartbreaking to see dejected parents outside that building of death, wailing hysterically over the thought that their little ones have perished inside the tavern.

The country is in shock over the tragic loss of young lives. The million-dollar question is: “Who is to blame?”

People on social media rebuke the tavern owner, others chastise parents for poor parenting, while some blame the dead children for bringing this miserable situation to themselves.

While pointing fingers is not going to help at this stage, to prevent a similar event from happening, what is to be done? Most of the children who died in the tavern were minors. They were clubbing in front of the same people who are now calling for heads to roll.

The children who died were too young to be dancing the night away at a place they are forbidden by law to enter.  We don’t know how they left their homes and sneaked into the tavern. While demanding accountability and for law to take its course, let us also forge a way forward to avoid a repeat of this tragedy.

As community members, it is upon us to act responsibly to guide children when we see them not toeing the line. In Tsonga we say: “N’wana a hi wa un’we” which means we all have the responsibility to protect and guide children even if they are not biologically ours.

Let us not normalise clubbing with children and let us not share alcohol with them because that creates a culture of addiction and irresponsibility.

Malphia Honwane, Gottenburg, Mpumalanga

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