Over the weekend, 21 teenagers died at a local tavern in Scenery Park, East London. The
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation conveys its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the
The tragedy raises a number of accountability issues that we need to grapple with as a
collective. South African Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that the victims of the tavern
disaster were all minors between the ages of 13-17. This immediately sent shockwaves to
many, who continue to ask why teenagers should be in taverns in the first place. We live in
communities where such places have become an escape and form of entertainment for young
people in the absence of proper structures such as libraries, schools, well-equipped parks and
environments for them to participate in extra mural activities.
In Soweto, the search for six-year old Khayalethu Magadla is still ongoing after it was
alleged that he fell into an open manhole while playing with his friends. In Orange Farm last
year, six-year old Khomanani Mawa lost his life when he plunged into an open manhole also
while playing with his friends.
Young people also need to begin changing some of their own youth culture practices. Should
young people be celebrating pens down parties in the middle of the year, with the likelihood
of doing so again at the end of the final term? This alone should serve as a strong indicator
that such practices are not necessary and that the youth need to refrain from participating in
“It has become a norm for young people to find entertainment through alcohol and substance
abuse”, complained Irfaan Mangera the Youth Programmes Manager at the Ahmed Kathrada
Foundation. “We need to put an urgent stop to this behaviour and find productive alternatives
to how we engage and interact safely with one another as the youth.” On Youth Day this year,
the Kathrada Foundation hosted an interactive Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change
where thousands of young people from different communities took to the Union Buildings
backed by several civil society organisations to deliver a memorandum on issues they face
today. The gathering explored innovative and progress ways of celebrating our history
through peaceful protest and highlighting the struggles of young people and what they felt
needed to be done.
While families, continue to grieve over the loss of their young ones, the Kathrada Foundation
calls on the SAPS to conduct a thorough and swift investigation in relation to the tavern
incident. The allegations that the bouncers closed the doors and did not allow young people to
exit the building is of particular concern. We live in a society with very little regard for the
law even from those entrusted with upholding the law. Further allegations have surfaced that
the tavern had been reported for many transgressions and these need to be fully investigated.
Fundamentally we must ask whether communities need taverns at all especially within
neighbourhoods? As long as they continue to exist and proliferate without the necessary
regulations and inspections, they will continue to be centres of potential harm to young
people and all who frequent them.
Young people have a responsibility to change youth culture. The youth of ‘76 did it and is up
to this generation to develop a new youth culture that values life above all else. Drugs,
alcohol, gangs and all other anti-social elements of youth culture must be changed.
Lastly young people must ask the hard accountability questions. Who neglected their
monitoring duties, enabling the tragedy to happen?
–Who failed to investigate the complaints against this tavern?
–Who did not inspect it?
–Who was it that allowed the tavern to operate for so long without ensuring that it met
all the health and safety requirements?
–What the local councillors and municipality do about its continued operation?
These and many more issues about accountability must be asked and answered thoroughly.
This would be the only fitting tribute to the 21 young bodies in the mortuaries today.