Imibuzo episode 3 recap: The Enyobeni Tavern incident, a night of terror

By Gen Terblanche22 May 2023

Imibuzo episode 3 recap: The Enyobeni Tavern incident, a night of terror

Now streaming on Showmax, South African true crime series Imibuzo takes you inside the story to answer your lingering questions about the cases that rocked the nation.  

Recap: What happened in Imibuzo episode 1 

Recap: What happened in Imibuzo episode 2 

Watch the trailer for Imibuzo

Imibuzo episode 3: 21 kids die at Enyobeni Tavern 

On the night of 25 June and the morning of 26 June, 2022, 21 people died at the Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park in East London. Many of the guests that night were local school children celebrating the end of the June term’s exams and the start of the winter break. There were conflicting reports about what went wrong, including crushing crowds, confusion, barred doors, and a choking chemical in the air. In the end, nine girls and twelve boys, aged between thirteen and seventeen, were dead.  

For months that followed, all that families and the community had was questions. Police kept a chokehold on information pending their court case against tavern owners Vuyokazi Ndevu and manager Siyakhangela Ndevu … for contravention of the Liquor Act. Enyobeni’s owners were due to go on trial in April 2023, but their court date was pushed out to 23 May 2023 due to loadshedding.  

Now, Imibuzo talks to those who were at Enyobeni the night of the tragedy, those who lost their children, community care workers, and journalists, to piece together the story.  


Enyobeni Tavern was hosting a big blowout party on Saturday, 25 June, the same night that local children were planning their “pens down” party. Imibuzo shows the advertisements for the event in which Enyobeni promised free entry for their big party in honour of DJs Cish & Spha, with live performance, surprise guests. Enyobeni promised the party-till-you-drop event to end them all. In their words, it would be “kuzofiwa” (deadly … but in a fun way). Hip hop artist and survivor Khanya Kwetana was booked to perform at Enyobeni the night of the tragedy and tells Imibuzo that Enyobeni was not the venue for pens down itself. That was set to take place in nearby Malindi Park. Khanya guesses that “Everyone from the pens down event switched locations and came to the birthday party.”  

Don’t you know where your kids are? 

News24 freelance journalist Siphokazi Totyi reveals that, while the tavern owner told her that he wasn’t at the tavern that night, “The children that were there that night said the owner sold them alcohol.” It wouldn’t be the first time. “The residents have complained about Enyobeni Tavern so many times … They told the media many times that the place was packed with children every day, that tavern was used to selling alcohol to children,” she insists. And the night of the party, Enyobeni Tavern wasn’t checking IDs, she says. “Everyone could walk in normally.”  

When reports of the tragedy became national news, many wondered how the parents of the 21 dead children could have allowed them to go to a tavern in the first place. Sinako Community Health Care Organisation Director Lindelwa Mkhizwana, who got calls from frantic parents and had to go with them to help identify the bodies of their missing children, reveals: “We noticed that there were a lot of children there and the community wasn’t aware that the children had gone to Enyobeni Tavern.” It seems likely that for many kids, winding up at Enyobeni wasn’t even the original plan. Hopping venues is the kind of thing that young, carefree kids do on impulse, to keep the vibe going. And if they were planning to go, it’s certainly not something that they would tell their parents.  

Xolile Malangeni, father of 17-year-old victim Esinakho Malangeni, reveals that the last time he saw his Nini, as he called his only daughter, she wasn’t even dressed for a party. She was wearing her pink dressing gown and chatting to her friends. It was Saturday night, exams were over, and he told the kids that they could go spend time together. The last time he saw her, she was out in the yard, still in her pink gown. He had no idea that she was getting ready for a wild night out.  

Imibuzo episode 3 is on Showmax

Ntombizonke Mgangala, aunt of 17-year-old victim Sinothando “Pinky” Mgangala, says: “Sinothando – Pinky – never told us about a pens down event. But we knew that she was saving up for something. She gave her mother the money to save it up for her. She told her mother that she was going to use the money on the 26th.” According to Ntombizonke, Sinothando was “a bit rude” when she asked her mother for her money on the 25th, though. And for what? Neither her mother nor her aunt knew … until it was too late. 

Inside the horror party 

Imibuzo’s brief CCTV footage from inside and outside the event shows that the whole area around Enyobeni Tavern that night was packed. When Khanya Kwetana got there around nine, he reveals: “It took us around 30 minutes to get to the VIP section, upstairs at Enyobeni, when making our way inside – it was supposed to be a 20-second walk, or maybe a one-minute walk!” It was so crowded that his friends who went to the bar didn’t get back for 30 minutes, either. The currents of people moving up to the VIP, across to the bar, and to and from the bathrooms were causing gridlock. And when Khanya went to find his friends, he reveals that he was pushed off the stairs. “As I was walking down the stairs, they pushed me at the back, so I fell straight into the crowd.”  

The venue’s bouncers were struggling to pull people out of the crowd as those in the thick of it started to faint. “People started asking for water. They’d bring a two-litre bottle of water from the bathroom but it wouldn’t even reach the collapsed individual. I remember there was a girl that had collapsed and they ended up sprinkling her with Black Label (beer) to revive her. She collapsed while standing. You just saw her fall over,” he says, miming his head flopping to the side. “She was no longer stable but she couldn’t physically fall over because we were stacked against each other.” 

Khanya asked some of his friends who were still in the VIP section to try to pull him out of the crowd so he could escape. But they were unable to pull him all the way up. “I couldn’t. I only ended halfway through. My feet were dangling around the crowd,” he says. Stuck, he watched as one girl collapsed twice and got up each time. But when she went down a third time, he didn’t see her get up again. That’s when he started praying. “People were dying in front of me. I saw people I went to school with dying and there was nothing I could do,” he says.  

Pressed to death 

Khanya started fighting with the men on the stairs, wanting them to clear the way “because they were the ones that were pushing people from the stairs.” And he and another man started trying to pull people out from the back of the crowd, but it was hard because of how everyone was wedged together.  

What he describes reveals that people were suffocating in the crowd. People’s muscles weren’t working – they weren’t getting enough oxygen. Khanya managed to pull one girl out but says, “She managed to get out but she couldn’t walk.” Another man could move just one of his legs when they pulled him out.  

“As we were pulling out the third person, there was a child that collapsed and fell. People stepped on her and she died,” he says. Khanya and his helper managed to pull two more people from the crowd. But when they reached the body of the child they’d seen get trampled, it was too late for her. Khanya reveals that until he brought her body up to the VIP section, people still had no idea that anything was wrong, both in the VIP and the ground floor. 

“They were still playing music. People were partying and having fun.”  

“I don’t think I will ever forget about that thing. After that thing, I’ve never performed again. Whenever I was in a crowded place, it felt like the same thing was going to take place. I don’t want to drink in crowded areas anymore,” says Khanya.  

Blocked by bouncers 

Siphokazi Totyi says that part of the problem was that while the venue’s bouncers were at the door barring more people from coming in – including parents out to look for their children – they were also blocking anyone who was battling to leave. There was only one door.  

And according to Khanya, those bouncers may have made a bad situation astronomically worse. “The exit was five to six steps away from me. The exit was right there but it was very packed. I don’t know what the bouncers were doing, or what they were thinking. We just started inhaling pepper spray and everyone was choking. That’s the worst thing that happened, them spraying pepper spray and closing the door.”  

Media24 journalist Malibongwe Dayimani adds: “We heard rumours or reports about a bouncer spraying pepper spray on patrons, and taking unconscious patrons and just dumping them outside and closing the door again, or preventing patrons from leaving the building, which was quite astonishing.” At this stage, police are refusing to release further CCTV footage from inside the club as it forms part of their investigation. 

The Enyobeni death trap 

An investigation into how Enyobeni Tavern came to have a liquor licence could be part of what’s causing the police to be so tight-lipped. “It’s a confined space and it only has one door. That was another issue that the Liquor Board highlighted. As journalists, we don’t know how they were given their licences. 

Imibuzo episode 3 is on Showmax

The Liquor Act stipulates that an establishment that sells liquor must have at least two exits,” Siphokazi says. Malibongwe adds, “We inspected the structure, and we discovered that the structural integrity of the building posed a safety hazard. The structure of Enyobeni Tavern is a death trap. There is no emergency exit or fire escape exit. There was only one door, and it was downstairs.” 

Searching through body bags 

By five or six on Sunday morning, news of the children’s deaths was starting to reach the community and unsuspecting parents. At the tavern, according to Lindelwa Mkhizwana, “You could see the pain the kids were going through while laying on the floor, and kids that were in tears along with kids that had escaped through the window.” Imibuzo’s footage taken inside the tavern shows the floor strewn with broken glass and spattered with blood.  

Ntombizonke Mgangala was alerted by the mother of one of Sinothando’s friends that something bad had happened at the tavern and that Sinothando, who’d gone there with her daughter, was missing. Ntombizonke had to search through the body bags in the tavern to see whether Sinothando was among the dead, only to be filled with doubt because of how death had changed her. “It’s the saddest moment ever, having to go from corpse to corpse, trying to check whether it’s your child or not,” she says.

Imibuzo episode 3 is on Showmax

“We identified her. She was covered in a body bag. I unzipped it. It was her. I noticed her legs. Her legs are like mine. They’re a bit plump, like mine. Her legs were very clear to see. The problem was that her face looked faded. Her complexion had changed. She was a bit dark.”  

No answers 

On Thursday, 2 September 2022, all that Health Department officials would tell parents of the 21 underaged victims of the Enyobeni incident, was that the victims had died of crushing and suffocation due to crowded conditions in the tavern. Parents who wanted their child’s full post-mortem report were told that they would have to apply through the court system individually, using the Promotion of Access to Information Act – a process that few, if any, of them would have the experience or emotional energy to navigate.  

The Imibuzo investigation shows that for those who are grieving and have no real grasp on what happened, the blank face of the legal system can read like cruel indifference to the death of a child.  

Siphokazi Totyi explains: “The parents are furious because the owners have only been charged for selling alcohol to ten minors, out of the 21 people that passed away. The parents of the other eleven children feel as though the state doesn’t care about their children. And no one’s saying anything. They want answers, especially the parents I spoke to, such as Mr Ncandana and Mr Malangeni. They want somebody to be charged with murder, not for contravening the Liquor Act. They believe there’s more to the story than being killed by suffocation. They want justice to be served as soon as possible.”  

Explaining compression asphyxia 

Without careful explanation, it’s difficult to understand how someone could just die standing up, without a mark on their body. Imibuzo does not touch on the medical facts. But while the victims’ loved ones struggle for answers, the Enyobeni incident proves again that overcrowding isn’t just dangerous; it’s deadly.  

Compression asphyxia, the same mechanism that the Health Department told parents was responsible for the Enyobeni deaths, is what killed the 10 victims during the Travis Scott concert at Astroworld in Houston in 2021. Children, who are both shorter and less physically muscular, are especially vulnerable to being crushed to death in crowds.  

Victims die standing up when they are packed so tightly together in a crowd that when they breathe out, the pressure on their chest and abdomen from surrounding bodies doesn’t allow them to breathe in again. 

As carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs, the brain and vital organs are starved of oxygen, and victims become lightheaded. Those who faint and fall to the ground have a chance of recovering (if they’re not tramped) because the restriction to the chest is eased. If they remain standing and compressed, however, the asphyxia can lead to organ failure and, eventually, death. Victims’ physical appearance changes, too, as asphyxia causes congestion in the upper half of the body and head, leading to swelling and darkening of the face like bruising. It could explain why Ntombizonke Mgangala thought Sinothando’s face looked “faded” and “darker”.  

About Imibuzo 

Now streaming on Showmax, Imibuzo is a true-crime documentary anthology series that will answer your lingering questions about some of South Africa’s biggest news stories from the last decade. 

New episodes will drop every Monday until 10 July 2023, with the next episode focusing on the ongoing rape, racketeering, and human trafficking cases against televangelist Pastor Timothy Omotoso. Imibuzo is being produced by POP24, part of Media24, who made the reality series This Body Works For Me, which topped the Showmax Top 20 and Twitter trends charts. POP24 also co-produced the SAFTA-nominated true crime anthology Huisgenoot: Ware Lewensdramas

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