East London – South Africa will on Wednesday bid farewell to 21 people, mostly teens, who died in unclear circumstances at a township tavern last month, in an incident that shocked the nation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address a memorial service for the victims at a stadium in the Scenery Park township in the coastal city of East London.
Empty coffins will be laid out for the ceremony, according to undertakers, with families expected to bury their children later this week.
The youngsters died in what survivors have described as a battle to escape the jam-packed venue, with one reporting a suffocating smell.
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The youngest was just 14 years and the oldest 20, according to birthdates listed on the memorial official programme distributed on Wednesday.
Police Minister Bheki Cele had previously said the youngest was 13 and the oldest 17.
The fatalities bore no visible signs of injury and officials have ruled out a stampede as the cause of the deaths.
A police investigation is still ongoing.
Drinking in South Africa is permitted for over-18s. But in township taverns, which are often located close to family homes, safety regulations and drinking-age laws are not always enforced.
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Nolitha Tsangani, a Scenery Park resident who lives near the Enyobeni tavern where the incident took place, said blame for the tragedy should be shared.
“We are all wrong… the parent is wrong, the child who is dead, I am sorry to say, is wrong,” she told AFP, as she also fingered the tavern owner and the police.
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