“I condemn the actions of those responsible,” were the words of Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Social Development MEC after an inquisition brought to light the alleged terrors happening at a ‘rehabilitation centre’ in Ruyterwacht, Cape Town.
The centre is not legal, in fact, it is merely a residence. Nonetheless, those trying to recover from substance addiction had arrived at its doors in seeking help – a far cry from the assault allegations that would come underway, and the murder investigation that would ensue.
The missing patient.
It was the disappearance of a 35-year-old male who was ‘admitted’ to the centre on Louis Botha street that largely led the SAPS to unearth the hidden crevices of the centre’s ‘treatments.
The patient was deemed missing after his Elsies’ family enquired about him at the Ruyterwacht ‘centre’. However, he could not be found.
Additionally, the DSD had received distressing reports of a murder at the same location.
“On further investigation, the missing person’s body was discovered at a mortuary, registered as an inquest, said police spokesperson, Captain FC Van Wyk said as per News24. “The case has since been updated to a murder currently under investigation,” he expressed.
The torture allegations.
As a part of the investigating officers’ visit to the residence, they were met with the news of assault allegations from other ‘patients’. One story was that of a 35-year old from Allison Close in Tafelsig, who claimed assault and torture. The ‘patient’ claimed that nails were hammered into his feet, his hands were tied while sanitiser was sprayed on him and he was set alight. A case with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) was subsequently opened.
Patients removed and sent home.
The SAPS made numerous arrests, according to the DSD, and all patients were removed from the site and back to their families.
The murder investigation is still an open-case.
According to Fernandez, there is a call on “the SAPS and Prosecuting Authority to ensure that they are not allowed to intimidate or have any contact with their victims while the prosecution is underway.”
Why it is important to seek help from registered facilities – according to the DSD:
Whilst sharing a space or living with an individual in active addiction can be challenging, the DSD are appealing to citizens to ensure that our loved one(s) sign up for treatment at a registered facility when needing help with a substance use disorder (SUD).
“With inpatient facilities, also known as rehabs, it is especially important to choose a registered facility because this means that they have appropriate treatment plans and the correct staff establishment made up of social workers and a range of medical professionals including nurses, psychologists, etc.
“Operating an unregistered rehab is illegal. The problem with illegal rehabs is that they may not comply with the prescribed norms and standards which includes having the right qualified professionals providing recognised structured treatment programmes. They may not implement recognised treatment protocols.
“Clients further face the risk of having their rights violated and sustaining injuries. The Department has received complaints about clients being abused and kidnapped by operators of illegal substance treatment organisations. The normal methods utilised within the behaviour management system does not include abuse.”
Examples of abuse include physical punishment such as:
- physical beatings,
- isolation for extended periods of time,
- standing in water for many hours,
- allowing fellow clients to physically abuse one another,
- shaving one’s hair; and
- hard labour.
Other forms of abuse include sexual and emotional abuse, such as degrading the client in front of others and withholding their medication.
Some illegal treatment centres implement a “pick up service” which implies that the client is kidnapped and kept against their will. He or she will be subjected to physical abuse until there is a submission to the continuation of the residential treatment.
Another way kidnapping is manifested is after the client has voluntarily admitted themselves and later expresses the desire to leave the establishment, but is held against their will, without a court order.
Further, one should always be aware that there is a risk of unregistered rehabs employing untrained staff, that there is a lack of expertise, or minimal resources to deal with crises and/or complications associated with addiction. Example heroin withdrawal which can be fatal if not correctly facilitated and monitored.
Additionally, when people go to unregistered facilities, they should be aware that they run the risk of being swindled out of their money. Some places will encourage longer stays at the facility than initially agreed upon, which means more fees payable to the facility. This does not always translate into the benefit to the client. There is no specific standard that prescribes an amount payable for treatment in South Africa,” they conclude.
How can people be sure that they are using a registered rehab?
A certificate should be displayed at the registered facility or service. An NPO registration certificate issued by National DSD should not be confused with the substance abuse treatment centre registration certificate which is issued by the provincial Department of Social Development and is valid only for five years. Clients should always check the date of issue on the certificate which should be clearly visible. The certificate will also indicate the maximum number of clients that the facility is allowed to accommodate. If it is not displayed, you have the right to ask to see it before signing any agreements.
Finding the right help:
If you or someone you care about has a substance use disorder or if you feel that you can’t cope with the symptoms of substance abuse at school or at home, getting help is the first step.
The treatment of a SUD is a process, and ongoing support is provided throughout a programme.
For more information on how to get the right help call 0800 220 250, or visit our local offices at the Department of Social Development or visit www.westerncape.gov.za/substance-abuse.