Eastern Cape Liquor Board must account for their role in Enyobeni tragedy

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs, and Tourism

The recent tragic events at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, Buffalo City, where 21 children lost their lives in a tavern, brings into stark focus the failure of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB) to enforce compliance regulations across the province.

The MEC for DEDEAT, Mlungisi Mvoko, must call the ECLB to account for their failures and must take proactive steps to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

The ECLB should never have issued Enyobeni Tavern with a liquor licence. Not only were several of the patrons under the legal drinking age, but the venue had only one entrance/exit and very poor ventilation. The building was incorrectly zoned and structurally unsuitable.

There are currently 7 441 valid liquor licences across the province, and while the ECLB has 99 employees, only 18 of them are inspectors. It is simply impossible for these inspectors to perform their pre- and post-licensing inspections at all of these venues.

While the liquor board relies upon ward councillors to assist in the completion of application forms to ensure compliance, it is common knowledge that some councillors will take a bribe to look the other way when buildings are not compliant.

I have written to MEC Mvoko, to urge him to immediately take the following steps:

  • Call upon the ECLB to account for their failures as a board which led to the tragedy and to formulate an immediate plan of action to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
  • Bring to life the ECLB’s provincial priority to work with law enforcement and security cluster partners, both public and private, to enforce compliance and clamp down on illegal trading.
  • Approach Treasury to urgently secure funding for further compliance inspectors.
  • Criminally charge any ward councillor that has submitted fraudulent information with regard to applicants and their venues.
  • Immediately revoke any liquor licence which is non-compliant.
  • Immediately adjust Key Performance Indicators to ensure that far more regular and comprehensive inspections of liquor outlets are undertaken.

See letter

Economic development must be balanced against the safety of patrons, which must always take precedence. A clean audit means nothing when lives are lost due to poor monitoring of compliance.

The Democratic Alliance once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all of those lost in this tragedy. We will continue to fight for the safety of our citizens.