Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid Town Hill, 1994, Daar's Plek Op Die Donkie Wa

21.07.94. Town Hill madhouse superintendent Dr. Ross belatedly replied, concerned about Fraser's absconding from open and closed wards. He suggested Fraser try living at a Durban Mental Health halfway house again, despite the fact that Fraser had absconded from a Durban Mental Health halfway house and had drunkenly concussed himself over five years before.

Dr. Ross reminded me that Town Hill was not a prison (despite Zulu gate-guards, concrete palisade fence, closed fenced wards and Impala forensic ward, with locked prison-windows, and locked metal doors, trapping Fraser in the custody of madhouse keepers), and that their seclusion room was a limited option, and the forensic security block was not an option for Fraser, despite Fraser having been gaoled in both many times.

Dr. Ross wanted to send Fraser back to a Durban Mental Health halfway house, which had failed Fraser over five years before. (Durban Mental Health's chief didn't have the courtesy to speak to me, despite my two appointments with him). Dr. Ross offered no rehabilitation for preparing Fraser to live in a violent society again, despite Durban Addington Hospital having certified Fraser to Town Hill for "rehabilitation." Dr. Ross's opinions on how Town Hill detained citizens, and prison environments were contradictory.

To me, if a citizen was certified, locked away against his will, separated from society, for months, with beefy Zulu gate guards, and musclely white uniforms guarding Fraser, he was in prison, even if it was called a psychiatric hospital, or a forensic security block, or whatever. Snag: the certified patient / prisoner didn't have the courtesy of a legal trial, neither was the patient's family involved in the certification. According to the SA Mental Health Act 1973, a couple of doctors and a magistrate just certified the citizen, without consulting the citizen, nor consulting the family. The excuse was that if the family was involved, they might be trying to rip off the patient's assets, never mind that the patient's life was stolen by medical professionals, nor that the family grieved for decades for their missing relative. (In some black madhouses, patients disappeared for ever.)

Fraser avoided Town Hill's tyranny simply by walking or jogging away - normal happy activities, but deemed abnormal by Town Hill. If Fraser really was running away, he was resisting routine detentions in closed wards and the forensic security block. Dr. Ross didn't state why Fraser felt the need to run away, after existing at Town Hill for 5.5 years. He didn't acknowledge that Fraser had successfully completed the Comrades Marathon in 1972, nor recently completed Maritzburg's Capital Climb, despite Town Hill's restrictions.

If I was Fraser, I too would've run away from routine cutting off of my freedom.

If doctors and Dr. Ross were routinely locked up for months in closed wards and the forensic security block, would they too not run away? I'd noticed that Town Hill madhouse keepers didn't last long in their jobs.

Town Hill objected to Fraser walking and running. Was Town Hill's idea of "rehabilitation" immobility and paralysis?

Mom's old Maritzburg varsity song rang in my deaf ears:

"...Daar's plek, daar's plek, daar's plek, daar's plek,
Daar's plek op die donkie wa." (There's space on the donkey wagon).

While the new SA struggled to contain violence, especially in KwaZulu-Natal's civil war, and adapt to a democratic SA, Fraser ran rings around Town Hill madhouse.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See The Use Of Donkeys for Transport in SA: Dirk Hanekom.

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