The recent death of 21 teenagers in a nightclub tragedy is a crime and South African authorities must step up measures to prevent the illegal sale of alcohol to young people, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
“We don’t yet know exactly what killed our children. But we do know the law was broken that night, and likely many nights before,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. praise ahead of more than a thousand mourners at the funeral in East London for the youngsters who died in a tavern nearly two weeks ago.
“We are losing our future generation to the scourge of underage drinking,” the president said, urging police to determine the exact cause of their deaths and calling on officials to stop young people from being allowed to access to bars.
“The blame must be laid at the feet of those who are making money off the dreams and lives of young people in South Africa by breaking the law and selling them alcohol,” he said. .
Two rows of coffins in front of Ramaphosa symbolized the young lives lost.
“Today we shed bitter tears for the 21 young people who died in this tragedy,” Ramaphosa said. “These children should not have died. Their deaths could have been avoided if the law had been respected.”
Sorrowful hymns were sung by a large choir as the coffins of 19 of the victims were carried to a large tent where the service was held in Scenery Park township in East London.
Two families held private burials and service organizers said the caskets on display were empty, in accordance with some families’ wishes. The children are to be buried in various cemeteries later Wednesday and in the coming days, they said.
The tent was filled to capacity, so many mourners were seated outside.
The youngest victim was 13 years old
It is still unclear what caused the death of the children, one of whom was only 13, whose bodies were found in Enyobeni’s tavern. They were under the legal drinking age of 18 in South Africa, officials said. Pathologists study the cause of death from blood samples. A stampede was ruled out because the bodies of the victims did not have serious injuries, police said.
Ramaphosa gave the eulogy as he faces several challenges, including prolonged power cuts in South Africa, numerous corruption allegations and questions about large amounts of cash allegedly hidden in furniture from his own game farm.
“I’ve heard some say I don’t belong here at Scenery Park. Some say I have bigger issues to deal with,” Ramaphosa told the rally. “But I ask them, what is more important in this country, and on this Earth, than the lives of our children?”