President Ramaphosa Mourns Death of 22 Teenagers at Night Club in Eastern Cape
WATCH Police Minister Breaks Down as President and Country Mourn Death of 22 Teenagers at Night Club in Eastern Cape. Photo: Reuters keyframe

South African Police Minister General Bheki Cele broke down in tears today whilst addressing the media about the tragic deaths of 21 teenagers at a tavern in Scenery Park, East London, in the early hours of this morning (Sunday, 26 June). One other youngster is in critical condition in hospital. (These figures have been updated, 19h32 SA time.)

The Minister can be seen wiping away tears a couple of times before he breaks down sobbing, and the microphone has to be handed to somebody else. Many of the nine girls and 12 boys were under 18, with the youngest being only 13-years-old, said the Minister.

WATCH Police Minister Bheki Cele breaks down in tears over tragic teenage deaths

What caused the deaths of teenagers at East London tavern / nightclub?

The country is in mourning after the mystery deaths. The bodies of the youngsters – strewn on tables, chairs and on the floor – were found by police after 4am this morning, following calls to SAPS. Minister Cele said nothing could prepare you for the scene, and seeing the ‘sleeping’ bodies and faces of children; and that whilst officials don’t yet know the cause of death, they do know that they were not of natural causes.

The youngsters’ bodies have been transported to state mortuaries where relatives (many of whom have been gathered outside the tavern all day in their pyjamas and night gowns) are expected to help identify victims, said Siyanda Manana, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape provincial health department.

“We are going to immediately be embarking on autopsies so we can know the probable cause of death,” he told Reuters, as forensic personnel continued their work at the cordoned-off crime site at Enyobeni Tavern.

Toxicology tests will be part of the examination as some have speculated the youngsters were sprayed with a substance that may have included poison. Minister Cele said the tests will be sent to Cape Town which has advanced capabilities, although it may take a little longer.

The SABC has reported the deaths were a result of a suspected stampede although it’s unknown what caused the alleged stampede, and locals say it was not a stampede.

President’s concern at underage children being in the nightclub

SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences and concern at the deaths, and also questioned how underage children came to be in the club which is for over 18s only.

While the President awaits more information on the incident, he said his thoughts are with the families who have lost children as well as families who are awaiting confirmation of how their children may have been affected.

On social media, several commenters have reposted a video (see below) that made news earlier this month, where a mother went to pick up her under-age child from a party. At the time the mother was criticised by many.

The President said he expects the law to take its course following investigations into the tragedy.

President Ramaphosa added:

“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.”


The Minister of Police led a national delegation to the Eastern Cape to visit the crime scene. The delegation consists of the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola, Crime Scene Experts from the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) as well as Bomb Disposal Technicians.

South Africa’s president said: “My deepest condolences go to the families of the 22 teenagers who lost their lives at a tavern in Scenery Park, East London, in the early hours of this morning.”

WATCH Minister Cele describes the Eastern Cape tavern deaths as a tragedy