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EDITORIAL | Tavern tragedy: too much blaming, too few answers


EDITORIAL | Tavern tragedy: too much blaming, too few answers

How the youngsters died is the priority, Bheki Cele, not people’s parenting skills or perceived lack thereof


Police minister Bheki Cele was understandably emotional after visiting the mortuary after the mysterious deaths of 21 youngsters at an East London tavern. Yet his default position was tone-deaf defensiveness — in this case, taking aim at the grieving parents. As mothers and fathers were still coming to terms with the haunting events, Cele suggested parents also needed to take responsibility for the tragedy. 

He broke down in tears outside the mortuary on Sunday afternoon, saying: “A 13-year-old died. A 17-year-old. Nine girls died, 12 boys. And people ask: ‘Where were the police?’ A 13-year-old dies at 4am and you are asking where are the police — really? Why was a 13-year-old out at 4am?” He said parents needed to be aware of their children’s whereabouts and enforce curfews. “I stay with my boy who is in university in Cape Town. He came back home after 11pm on Friday night and I sat him down and told him: ‘You don’t come home after 11pm’,” said Cele, glibly sharing parental advice.

For the families of those who died, these are the worst of times. Now is not the time to sling around accusations; now is the time to search for answers. Two days after the tragedy the parents are none the wiser as to what happened. Cele said the theory of a stampede had been ruled out...

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