The death of 21 teens in an East London tavern over the weekend remains a mystery as police investigations continue. It has been determined that the deceased, aged between 13 and 17, were all school children who celebrated the end of their June exams at the popular Scenery Park tavern on Saturday night.
While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, there are claims that the minors may have been exposed to some form of poison, while other reports claim a stampede broke out after security used teargas or pepper spray in an attempt to disperse patrons.
All over Mzansi residents are in shock and disbelief, sharing their opinions about the tragic incident.
Zintle Khobeni is the founder of The Great People of South Africa. She tells Health For Mzansi that many parents feel that they no longer have control over their children’s actions because their children have too many rights, which prevents them from enforcing discipline.
“We must acknowledge that not all of the deceased’s parents are bad parents; some parents do their best to instill the right values in their children.”
She adds that it is the responsibility of tavern owners to adhere to the regulations that outline how they should conduct business. The owner of the tavern has reportedly been advised to close his business until a full investigation has been concluded.
It takes a village
In Zwelitsha in the Eastern Cape, Lubabalo Stemele (45) is a father himself. Even though he does not know any of the affected families, he says he is struggling to come to terms with the death of the teens. “A youngster is nurtured by both parents and society,” he says.
Stemele believes that children must be ruled with an iron fist in order to prevent such incidents.
“I recommend conducting random inspections, such as checking their phones unexpectedly. Once young children become friends with older children, it is probable that mischief will ensue.”
Stemele adds that children are a reflection of society. He believes that if we as a society emphasise that using alcohol is a sign of a good life and happiness, then our children would do the same.
“Another unfortunate reality is that the positive lessons our children have learned at home are not nearly as entertaining as the negative ones. Therefore, they develop more negative behaviours outside the house.”
Nomveliso Mbanga, a teen coach who works at the Mayine development Institute in Randburg in Gauteng, agrees with Stemele. She says that because adolescents spend so much time at school, or with their peers, parents cannot safeguard or advocate for them at all times.
Teens must be continually aware that their choices have repercussions, as they frequently lack a long-term perspective, she adds.
“They make decisions based on what they consider to be the best course of action at the moment,” Mbanga says.
Society’s role in teen issues
According to Mbanga, the problem involves numerous entities – parents, teens, community members, bars or nightclubs, and the government.
“It is first and foremost the responsibility of parents to enforce guidance and discipline in their children. However, when a lot is going on in a family unit, we tend to lose connection with our children to the point where they rarely listen to what we have to say and frequently attach themselves to their peers for self-preservation.”
Teenagers frequently lie about where they’re going, especially when they know they’re not permitted to do certain things or be in specific areas, and Mbanga believes that they should be cognisant of the consequences of their actions. They must also realise that acts have consequences.
She adds that community members must be engaged citizens who question behaviours that violate the law or endanger children. When pubs sell narcotics to minors, “we frequently observe but take no action to safeguard their safety”.