Was ‘poisoned’ hookah, food or alcohol to blame?


Speculation is rife over the cause of death of 21 children who died in the Enyobeni tavern in East London in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Twelve boys and nine girls – with the youngest being just 13 years old – died/

According to reports, the children were celebrating a “pens down” party and the start of the winter school holidays.

ALSO READ: Insensitive or spot-on? Bheki Cele scolds parents of Enyobeni victims


According to the spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Community Safety Unathi Binqose, experts believe that the cause of death of the Enyobeni victims was attributed to something the youth had “ingested or inhaled”.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Binqose revealed that the forensic pathologists “said it was something they ingested, possibly from the beers they were consuming or something they inhaled from those hubbly-bubblies [water pipes or hookahs] that they were smoking”.

According to EWN, “there is speculation that patrons were either exposed to some form of poison or an incident that resulted in a large number being injured and killed in a stampede”.

ALSO READ: ‘Alcohol and food was free’: Enyobeni tragedy survivor speaks out

In pictures circulating on social media, the bodies of the children were seen lying on the tables, chairs, and on the floor at the club. There were no visible signs of injury

In a Facebook invitation by the Enyobeni tavern – “Hookah, food, and alcohol”, were readily available. Patrons of Enyobeni also revealed that management of the establishment was known to “pepper spray the crowd” in a bid to force everyone out.

A Facebook post from Enyobeni tavern advertising Saturday night’s party

Performing artist Brian Mapasa – who escaped with “minor injuries” – shared in a Facebook post: “People suffocated and started collapsing. It was very hard to breathe in that small space by the door with pepper spray even. I got pulled out losing my breath.

“Enyobeni is not having enough security by the door, imagine two people stopping 100s of people pushing back and forth. Some wanted to come in by force while others wanted to get out ASAP due to pepper spray”.

Investigations are ongoing and a cause of death has yet to be revealed

ALSO READ: ‘It ended in tears for others’: Tweeps praise concerned mom after Enyobeni tragedy


As seen at the Enyobeni tavern, hookah or hubby bubbly is a popular activity at most drinking holes.

But just how safe is it?

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), hookah is far from harmless and can lead to:

  • Cancer
  • Lung damage
  • Heart disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Herpes and
  • Early death

It said in a report: “Hookah and cigarette smoke both contain poisons, including nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, and lead. Arsenic is used as a rat poison, and carbon monoxide is a deadly gas also found in motor car exhaust. Even in small amounts, lead can make children hyperactive, irritable and cause brain damage

“People think of the hookah as fun, instead of a dangerous drug that can make you very, very sick”.

ALSO READ: Enyobeni tavern tragedy: Why the death toll could rise [Update]


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