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It’s time we asked the real, brutal questions about the tavern ...


It’s time we asked the real, brutal questions about the tavern tragedy

We need to look beyond the basic facts of carbon monoxide fumes if we want to fix SA society in the long term


We still do not know what exactly killed 21, mainly teenagers, at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London in the early hours of last Sunday morning. Yesterday there was speculation about carbon monoxide poisoning. Here is yet another case of incompetence writ large. Autopsy. Toxicology. Interviews. Corroboration. Simple methods to determine cause of death. We cannot even get that right. The Washington Post, writing from afar on June 27, seemed to know a lot more than our armies of journalists with fearsome reputations for investigatory journalism: “The working theory is that it was something that the teenagers ingested or inhaled.”

I find our ritualised reaction to such unspeakable tragedies deeply disturbing. It’s as if somebody switches on a machine where characters like stick figures from your toybox spring to life to play predetermined roles. ANC condemns the tragedy. Minister swoops down on the event with security and tears: “They were children!” he informs an impromptu audience. Locals march demanding answers. Families, friends and strangers assemble at the scene. Journalists humanise the loss with soppy stories. Online polls favour responses that say “everyone’s too blame”. Then we forget, everyone moves on and the stick figures return to their toyboxes until the next tragedy.

Not good enough...

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