Friday, January 11, 2008

2008. Apartheid Town Hill, early 1990s: I'm Going Back To Maritzburg

Dr. Kaf at Pietermaritzburg's Town Hill madhouse unreasonably suggested I ask superintendent Dr. Ross to send Fraser to Komani Hospital, Queenstown, another madhouse about two hours drive from my East London home. Dr. Kaf's reasoning was that Fraser would be near his family. Dr. Kaf didn't explain why Town Hill's "rehabilitation" had consisted of feeding Fraser zombifying, toxic drugs and imprisoning Fraser in Impala forensic ward for months.

"Mad idea!" I said. "Fraser's lived all his life in Natal. His friends live in Durban. Queenstown's stifling hot in summer and freezing in winter. Queenstown has a busy necklacing industry, whereby an offender has a rubber tyre forced over his head, petrol poured over him, then someone lights a match. Given Fraser's happy wanderings in Maritzburg, Queenstown would be an extremely unsafe option for him."

End of Komani madhouse idea. But not a word from Town Hill about Fraser's "rehabilitation." I felt Town Hill wanted to get rid of Fraser a.s.a.p., and ignore Fraser's "rehabilitation."

Town Hill generated crises continued: Fraser got iatrogenic meningitis. Dr Cosnett, a distant cousin fixed Fraser. I went back to Maritzburg and chatted to Dr. Cosnett. Fraser lay abed, red in the face, sweating, confused. Dr Cosnett said, "The meningitis germ got into the cracks of Fraser's broken skull and infected him."

Fraser survived, but I wondered how much more brain-damage Fraser had got. Iatrogenic fuck-ups Fraser had experienced at Durban's Addington Hospital were continuing at Town Hill. Besides other brain damage, it was the second time within three years I'd seen Fraser burning up inside: 1st Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome at Addington Hospital; 2nd meningitis at Town Hill. It was the fifth brain trauma (mainly iatrogenic) Fraser had had within three years.

Fraser was trapped by madhouse keepers. Whenever I got mad phone calls or mad letters from Town Hill madhouse keepers, or calls from cops who'd arrested Fraser's benign shamblings, I contacted Town Hill madhouse keepers, telling them to sort out the problem. Although 700 kays away, I sometimes heard about Fraser's great escapes before Town Hill did. When things went well for Fraser, Town Hill never contacted me. When things deteriorated, I was rarely contacted.

Town Hill made me feel that Fraser and I were the entrapment problem, despite Durban's Dr. Luiz having certified Fraser to Town Hill for "rehabilitation" without consulting me.

After my irate letters about Fraser's "rehabilitation," and after Fraser had been at Town Hill for 18 months Dr. Kaf said, "I've transferred him from a closed ward to an open ward. He seems to be much happier. However he still demands to be discharged. He functions quite well in a structured environment like we have in hospital. Whether he'll function by himself is questionable. He'll perhaps need a supervised environment with sheltered employment." Stating the obvious, already stated by Durban doctors, and used as an excuse to certify Fraser to Town Hill.

Any sane person would object to being incarcerated with lunatics after going for walks. Fraser objected. I certainly would demand to be discharged after that. Dr. Kaf's use of pronouns "he / him" was dehumanizing. Still nothing from Dr. Kaf about Fraser's "rehabilitation."

SA unrest: Thousands were still being killed in the race to the new SA. Inkatha Zulus went wild, killing anyone they objected to, especially ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and the Vaal Triangle. SAP sneakily helped Zulus in their many murders, "sweeping" out kraals in the day, before Inkatha impis murdered comrades in the night. Unctuous De Klerk became president, ousting bellicose PW Botha. De Klerk freed ANC prisoners. 02.02.1990: De Klerk announced unbanning of the ANC, PAC and SACP, saying the rest of apartheid laws would be repealed.

Mandela was released from prison. Namibia became independent, after commie Cubans had been booted out of Angola. Maritzburg massacres continued. More blacks were slaughtered in Transvaal townships especially in overcrowded, tribal hostels. Tambo returned to SA after 35 years' exile. Government admitted supplying secret funds to Inkatha. Convention for a Democratic SA, CODESA, began at the World Trade Centre, Kempton Park, where politicians of all colours and creeds negotiated the new Government of National Unity.

1991. Luke our youngest son was born in East London, making Fraser a happy uncle, twice over.

While SA mayhem continued, Fraser shambled happily through Maritzburg madness.

Annually, I wrote to Town Hill's superintendent Dr. Ross, arranging to take Fraser on short Christmas holidays. I met Fraser at Impala Ward, Uitkyk Ward, or O Ward, depending on how his madhouse keepers perceived his behaviour. Uitkyk was an open ward, allowing relative freedom for Fraser to talk to trees. The other two were closed wards, allowing Fraser to talk to bare walls while gaoled. Every holiday, I signed a document indemnifying Town Hill, and took responsibility for Fraser while he was away from Town Hill. Town Hill gave Fraser plastic bags full of neuroleptics, like clozapine and carbamazapine, for his trips.

During his early holidays from Town Hill, Fraser still smoked and boozed beer, but later gave up those self-abuses, and became teetotal. Fraser scoffed clozapine and carbamazapine pills several times daily. Town Hill had conditioned him to regularly take his pills. He zombie-shambled like other goofed residents at Town Hill. Clozapine was supposed to inhibit hallucinations and agitation. Years later, Clozapine anti-psychotic tranquillizer lowered Fraser's white-blood-cell count. Carbamazapine was supposed to inhibit seizures, aggression and agitation. Fraser got fat - another side symptom. As drugs metabolized in Fraser's liver, I wondered when his liver would become cancerous like depressed mom's had. It seemed Town Hill wanted to keep citizens like Fraser as docile and dozy as possible, giving Town Hill hassle-free time to not rehabilitate Fraser.

Fraser's curator bonis sent him regular pocket-money from Fraser's estate, and sent more when we went on holidays. While Fraser and I trekked Happy Land, SA convulsed.

We drove about in my 1800cc, red Golf GTS, and fished at Blue Lagoon, Umgeni Estuary.

We visited Fraser's remaining friends, like Jason in Durban North. (Most had vanished after Fraser's 1987 Verulam accident.)

We trekked to Port Edward, where Fraser reminisced about fishing and water-skiing trips.

We sneaked via back-roads into Transkei, but couldn't continue to East London as Fraser had no ID document to get through Kei Bridge border post. A Xhosa lady cop stopped us on the rutted, Lusikisiki dirt-road, asking for our IDs. I talked nicely to her. After glaring at Fraser she waved us on.

For years Fraser didn't want me to show him the Verulam accident site.

We camped at Monks Cowl, watching a veld fire ring the Berg. We lit a wattle fire, braaiing boerewors and chops, and licked our greasy fingers. Fraser quaffed Lion Lagers, which had no ill-effects when mixed with his anti-psychotics.

QwaQwa Exclusive Suburb near Sentinel Primary had grown posh houses, inhabited by prosperous Sotho. A Sotho doctor lived in my old Tshiya Street compound house.

Bloemfontein: We visited aunt Dorothy's old 87 Reitz Straat home and two cottages where we'd had boyhood holidays.

Koffiefontein: I showed Fraser where I'd lived at 14 McHardy Crescent. Fraser shat in the gyring mine-pit, while black eagles hunted dassies in the pit. Fraser shambled up the grey, stone WW1 memorial steps. We stared at Mussolini and Victoria Emmanuel 111 murals, rusty traction engine and giant metal Koffiepot at the dorp entrance.

Kimberley: We looked into the BIG HOLE. We bilked a campsite.

Somerset East: We looked at tannie Hendrikzs' graves. And listened to baboons at Besters Hoek. Kapie coloureds still weren't allowed in Besters Hoek. We looked at mom's cousin Phoebe Hendrikz's posh double-storey home, with yellowwood floors and roof beams, with title deeds signed by Lord Charles Somerset. We looked at tannie Winnie's and tannie Beattie's Van Riebeeck Straat pondok, where we'd had boyhood Christmas holidays. We swam in the municipal pool, still for white boykies, and saw hoopoes in pepper trees.

1992. We visited Elandspruit farm near New Hanover, where we'd had boyhood Easter holidays. We discussed Trust Feeds killings nearby: Brian Mitchell, SAP captain and cop thugs were convicted of killing 11 kraal Zulus in the 03.12.88 Trust Feeds Massacre. They spoilt our pristine boyhood memories, when we'd watched Zulu men hand-milk cows, feed pigs, chop and strip wattle trees, collect mielies on a trailer for the farm, and silage mielies into the farm silo.

Our treks helped Fraser get his memory back. He told me things I'd forgotten about Elandspruit farm and our Banana Boys' holidays. He remembered egg-sized hailstones one violent thunder-storm which had clattered on Elandspruit farmhouse roof.

Tugela Ferry: We admired Zulu abafazis' towering, ochre head -dresses. I swerved past burnt out car tyres in the middle of the road, where Zulus had protested killings and States-of-Terror.

I drove steep roads near Melmoth, Zululand, where mom had first taught poor whiteys.

We saw wildlife at Umfolozi, Hluhluwe and Kruger Parks. We camped at Kosi Bay near where my last army camp had been on Mozambique border. We camped at Lake Saint Lucia, and found ammonite fossils on the lake shore. Fraser reminisced about his Zululand fishing trips. A black and white pied kingfisher dived from a buffalo-thorn tree.

On our treks people stared, repelled by Frasers' zombie-shuffle, his clawed hand.

Verulam road-cutting: I showed Fraser where Vusi's sugarcane truck had hit Fraser, and where he'd laid in a pool of his own blood. I pointed to the embankment where Vusi alleged Fraser had run down into Vusi's sugarcane truck. "Jason thinks kaffirs panga-hacked your leg," I prompted.

"No way!" Fraser remembered. "My blue beach-buggy broke down on the Verulam road. I walked alongside the road towards Verulam, facing traffic. Trying to find a phone-box so Jason could pick me up. I don't remember the sugarcane truck hit. Walking... then blank."

Vusi had lied, like a tickey watch.

I drove back to Maritzburg, while Fraser and I sang mom's mad Maritzburg varsity song: "...I'm going back to Maritzburg, if I can..."

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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