Nearly two dozen young people died stemming from an event at a popular nightclub in South Africa. Videos claiming to show footage from the venue have gone viral and support early reports that the establishment was overcrowded before a deadly stampede ensued. However, there was no official cause of the deaths immediately reported.
An investigation into what happened at the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London is reportedly underway.
According to verified reports across social media — where graphic photos purportedly showing some of the victims were posted — those who died were mostly if not all Black people.
NewsOne has decided against sharing those images.
It was not immediately clear how many people died, with a number of reports claiming there were at least 20 fatal victims.
Former South African President Cyril Ramaphosa tweeted his condolences to the families of people he referred to as “22 teenagers” who died at the establishment in the city’s Scenery Park neighborhood on the country’s eastern cape.
Videos posted to social media showed throngs of people purportedly at Enyobeni Tavern, with a number of tweets calling for the establishment to be shut down.
A spokesman for the Department of Community Safety in Eastern Cape Province told the New York Times that officials suspected the tavern, which includes outdoor space, was overcrowded when a stampede occurred.
“It attracted huge numbers,” Unathi Binqose said of the event Saturday night before adding, “more than the tavern can accommodate.”
The Times reported:
Mr. Binqose said the tavern had hosted a large party on Saturday night, featuring two DJs who were celebrating their birthdays. The party was also billed as a celebration of South Africa dropping its mask mandate for public places, which had been in effect since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Binqose said.
Despite the videos showing massive crowds, no footage seemed to exist of a stampede. The photos of the alleged victims also did not seem to support claims of a stampede, according to at least one media organization that reportedly saw them.
Local news outlet Dispatch Live reported: “Initial speculation was that the patrons were either exposed to some form of poison or an incident resulted in a large number being killed in a stampede, but with a lack of any visible injuries and the positioning of the bodies, commentators have suggested that it could not have been a stampede.”
A Facebook post from Enyobeni Tavern on Friday invited patrons to celebrate for “free” the birthdays of two DJs. “Hooka food and alcohol available ,” the post said in part while promising “it’s gonna be lit this weekend @EnyobeniSceneryPark.”
Bhekokwakhe “Bheki” Hamilton Cele, the South African Minister of Police, blamed “the parents” of the “13-year-olds” who he suggested died “in taverns.”
Reuters reported that Cele addressed people in Scenery Park on Sunday morning.
“The call is on the parents to see that their kids are kept well, the call is on the community to say we can’t allow our kids to die,” Cele said.
Earlier this month, a video went viral showing a mother who had to “fetch her daughter” from a similar location where youths were presumably gathered to drink.
Ramaphosa, the former South African president, said the deaths were compounded by the fact that it came at a time of the year when the country celebrates young people.
“This tragedy is made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month – a time during which we celebrate young people, advocate and advance opportunities for improved socio-economic conditions for the youth of our nation,” Ramaphosa tweeted.
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.