Weekend eruption of tavern massacres shocks South Africa to the core
Two weeks after South Africans were left reeling in shock after 21 young people died at the Enyobeni tavern in East London, 21 patrons at three other taverns were shot dead this past weekend. 15 people were killed in Emazulwini Tavern in Nomzamo informal settlement in Orlando East, Soweto, after gunmen opened fire on revellers in the early hours of Sunday morning. Two people were killed in a shooting in a tavern in Katlehong, 40km southeast of Johannesburg. Four people were killed when two men opened fire on people in Mntambo Tavern in Sweetwaters, a periurban area near Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Twelve patrons were shot, with eight admitted to hospital in critical condition.
Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko said eight survivors of the tavern shooting in Orlando East were recovering in hospital, three in critical condition. She said the assailants had arrived in a Quantum minibus, entered the tavern and had then started shooting randomly at patrons.
The suspects who shot at patrons at Mntambo Tavern in Sweetwaters are also believed to have used 9mm pistols. KwaZulu-Natal SAPS spokesperson Colonel Nqobile Gwala said the victims were between 30 and 45 years old. She said the incident happened when two men got out of a VW Polo and opened fire on patrons. “At around 20h30 on Saturday night, two males jumped out of the vehicle and entered the tavern and started shooting randomly. Two people were declared dead at the scene and the other two died in hospital. The suspect fled the scene after the incident.”
Petros Mntambo, the tavern owner, told journalists that he was still shocked because he had never imagined that such a tragic incident could happen at his premises. It is not clear at the moment who are these people who came to kill people in my tavern. But we will view the CCTV cameras to see what really transpired,” said Mtambo.
The community of Sweetwaters is shocked after the incident. Sikhanyiso Makhaye, councillor for Ward 3 in Sweetwaters, said that as community leaders they have been calling for better police visibility after a spike in violent criminal activities in recent months. “This incident, in particular, took us by surprise. We had never thought that so many people would die in one place. But we have been hearing stories of the VW Polo whose occupants were terrorising people.
“Many people from Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas are always complaining about these Polo drivers. We call on the minister of police to add more police on the ground to avoid such incidents. We can’t allow the situation whereby our people will live in fear,” said Makhaye.
The tavern deaths across the country have left many in despair, particularly as some of the victims were young children. What seems to be evident is that South Africa is grappling with an underage drinking problem that is exacerbated by the availability and exposure to alcohol from a young age.
The cause of death for the Enyobeni tavern victims is yet to be determined. The Eastern Cape Department of Health said they would engage with the respective families when they are in receipt of the analytical laboratory results. “At present we have handed some clothing of the deceased to the SAPS. We have been informed that SAPS sent samples of these items of clothing to the laboratory for analysis. It is very important that we base our findings on the evidence that has been collected as well as the results, as the laboratory returns the results to the forensic team,” the department said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday expressed his condolences to the latest shooting victims. President Ramaphosa urged security agencies and community members to work together to bring the perpetrators of the two attacks to book. “As a nation, we cannot allow violent criminals to terrorise us in this way, regardless of where such incidents may occur. As government, citizens and structures of civil society we must all work together even more closely to improve social and economic conditions in communities, reduce violent crime and stamp out the illicit circulation of firearms. Every single violent death is unacceptable and worrying and killings on the scale we have seen in Soweto, Pietermaritzburg and previously Khayelitsha must spur us into a collective effort to build communities and make South Africa an unsafe place for criminals.”
Sources: Daily Maverick, EWN, ENCA, Cape Times