Tavern stampede case postponed

The case against the owner of a tavern where 10 people died in a New Year’s day stampede has been postponed to Friday in the Schweizer-Reneke Magistrate’s Court.

James Thembiso Lepholletse (47) appeared briefly on Monday facing culpable homicide charges.

“He will remain in custody until then,” police spokesperson Captain Adele Myburgh said.

Dozens of people had converged outside the courthouse but no protests were reported.

“There were a lot of people there including various media. Police are still monitoring,” she said.

Seven men and three women, aged between 18 and 25, were trampled to death at the Basotho tavern in Ipelegeng at 2.15am on Saturday.

The exact cause of the incident was still unclear.

Anger was reportedly mounting in the township and residents were urged to remain calm.

“We request the community to remain calm and not take the law into their own hands,” Myburgh said after the incident. “People must act responsibly in assisting the police with their investigation.”

The South African Communist Party on Monday also called for calm in the area and sent its condolences to the families.

“We will follow up to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their irresponsible actions,” said provincial spokesperson Kaizer Mohau.

The incident was reminiscent of the Throb nightclub tragedy in Durban’s Chatsworth suburb where 13 children died on March 24 2000.

The youngest victim was 11-years-old.

The day of horror erupted when a tear-gas canister was thrown on to the club’s dance floor on the last day of the first school term.

Frantic school children attending the matinee tried to get out and it led to a stampede.

The canister was thrown by two employees of a rival club, Vincent Pillay and Selvan “Dogman” Naidoo, who served five-and-a-half years for 13 counts of culpable homicide and the unlawful possession of a teargas canister.

The club owner, Siva Chetty, was released from prison in 2006 after serving six years of a nine-year-and-nine-month sentence for 13 counts of culpable homicide.

The incident made headlines around the world. — Sapa

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