Thursday, February 7, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid: Fraser Esslemont and Curator Letters 2006-2008

< 2008. Fraser Esslemont sorting washers, Sunnyside Farm Workshop, KwaZulu-Natal. (Pietermaritzburg Mental Health Society). "More than fantasy."

Fraser's May 2006 Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "Please forgive me for not writing sooner. It dawned on me you and your family have gone from SA for 11 years. Didn't you arrive in NZ in June 1995! Congratulations, you must have settled down well. It must have been difficult sometimes in a new land. [Yes].

This photograph was taken of me on 10.5.2006. Developing in Underberg took 1 day and I write on 11.5.2006. Im a bit surprised myself. I hope this photo reaches you in may 2006 before your 11th year anniversary. Do you still drink wine?... [Yes].

I hope to meet you in 2010 in Mauritius. I think you select a date when you can get away in 2010. Luke would have finished schooling by then. How will you spend your time? I suggest island hopping in the indian ocean. Until then..."

My July 2006 letter to Fraser's curator / administrator. "Thanks for Fraser's financial statement. I see accommodation costs have risen and interest rates have remained low. Ouch!...

ABs donnered Wallabies recently and Wallabies donnered the Boks last weekend. Looking forward to this weekend's ABs vs Boks clash."

Fraser's December 2006 Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "I have not written on your birthday card. I would have spoilt the card. [Over the years Fraser had posted me beautiful, home-made birthday and Xmas cards]. Please send it back to me next year. [Done]. You wrote of the big snow in August 2006. It would have been the worst in 30 years. Many thanks for the book on the snow. I appretiate very much the photos you send. Thank you.

You & your family will have a lot to talk about when we meet in 2010. The years have certainly passed quickly. I'm still undecided where the best place we can meet. Its either Durban or the NZ islands. Im sure I can get on board a ship to NZ. Rather than you & your family coming here to SA. I dont fancy the idea of flying over the seas. Do you agree on 2010? & which season is best?

We will meet again before we retire. Perhaps we can take the same world sea cruise together. Ill get the brochures all about it..."

In 2007, I received no dispatches from Fraser, who'd lived in KwaZulu-Natal madhouses for twenty years.

During the first 26 years of my life, I'd lived in mom's home at 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North. During my conscript Commando service, I'd slept in barracks, tents and veld in the Cape and KwaZulu -Natal. During my trekking through Southern Africa and overseas, I slept in cars, trains, planes, ships, hostels, hotels, B&B's, motels and tents. During my married life in SA and overseas, our 10 houses, 9 flats, 2 barracks and 1 duplex were all empty when we arrived. We filled the empty houses with our belongings and lives, for short and long stays, then trekked onwards, leaving empty houses.

Our workplaces backdropped our houses. As migrants we left empty houses behind, and didn't return. Post-apartheid white teachers, living in empty houses, feared failure elsewhere, so didn't leave their white affirmative-action jobs, as the blackdrop of black affirmative- action jobs and black competition was too ghastly. Twelve years after I left Selborne College, SA teacher trainers weren't producing enough qualified teachers, so my chicken-white colleagues who'd stayed at Selborne had to train black "assistant teachers" on-the-job.

In 2001, a silly Indian social worker had encouraged Fraser's fantasy about travelling overseas to visit us. She naively suggested if Fraser's funds expired, he could apply for a state disability grant (hard to get and poorly administered). Nicole Itano's "No Place Left To Bury The Dead," Atria Books, New York, 2007, described SA corruption regarding state child support grants and state disability grants.

Years later, Fraser still mind-fixed about cruising to Mauritius, or Australia, or NZ, or the world to see us, never mind the costs. The silly Indian social worker was long gone, but her encouraging Fraser's poor financial judgement, and her sniffing out Fraser's estate from his lawyers still affected Fraser and me. The silly social worker had seeded an idea in Fraser which could harm Fraser and his family, and our relationships with the lawyer firm. In short, post apartheid social workers paid by the state to help patients and their families, by liaising with state Social Welfare offices, could do huge financial damage to patients and their families, by interfering in family dynamics, and touting bad financial advice.

During twelve years' apartheid and post apartheid, while brother Fraser was severely affected by the Mental Health Act 1973, I never heard any doctors, lawyers, medical and mental health care workers in SA objecting to the ravages of the Act on mad patients and their families. It would be nice to hear some doctors, lawyers, medical and mental health care workers speaking out against iniquities of the Mental Health Care Act 2001, as patients were still abused in institutions despite the "new" Act. After all, SA in 2008 did have freedom of speech and expression. Didn't it?

My experiences over 21 years of dealing with apartheid and post apartheid doctors, lawyers, medical and mental health care workers were that professionals rode the donkey wagon, led by donkeys, with few public comments or protests. After 21 years, I still waited to see or hear about decent rehabilitation for mental health patients like Fraser. It would've been nice to see computer and internet access for patients, and rehabilitated use of old literacy and numeracy skills, which Fraser still had. Not just "voluntary" Occupational Therapy, whereby businesses benefitted from free, captive labour by mental health patients.

If a mental health patient like Fraser had for years provided free Occupational Therapy or Industrial Therapy labour like gardening, sorting screws, washers, etc, for contracted business beneficiaries, then when the patient turned 65 years old, the patient should automatically get a state pension for the rest of his / her life, without means testing.

After all, Fraser paid taxes during the years he worked as a Standard Bank teller before brain damage, and was conscripted by the SADF which wasted two years of his life. In 1973, he'd volunteered a year of his life as a hospital orderly at Holy Cross Mission Hospital, Pondoland. Fraser was brain damaged by a Zulu sugarcane trucker in 1987 during a State-of -Terror, and suffered for years afterwards. He freely gave his labour, while certified and decertified, for years to state and NGO Occupational Therapy / Industrial Therapy schemes, so his retirement after age 65 should be rewarded with a state pension, without means testing. That's fair.

Even fairer, those businesses which for years had benefitted from Fraser's and other patients' free labour should front up and contribute to the state pension fund.

Carers loved reporting that Fraser was "stable" or "stabilized," meaning toxic neuroleptics, controlling Fraser's seizures, had stopped him being a danger to himself and others. Not once in 21 years did Fraser's carers ever say they were taking him off drugs. Over 10 years, Fraser paid over R100 000 resident fees to Maritzburg Mental Health, and Fraser's "rehabilitation" was rural institutionalization and anti-psychotic drug dependence, which dumbed him down and isolated Fraser from normal people. Never mind the stigma normal people attached to brain damaged Fraser.

Thirteen years after emigrating to NZ, I didn't have money to visit Fraser in SA. But the donkey wagon wheels slowly turned, and mom's old Maritzburg varsity song showed the way: "O Maritzburg, happy land, happy land, I'm going back to Maritzburg if I can..."

< 2008. Arabs dancing, Culture Galore, Ray Blank Park, Christchurch, NZ.

In early 2008, I wrote to Fraser's curator and Maritzburg Mental Health, inquiring about Fraser's health and poor correspondence. I posted Fraser batches of Xmas and family photos, and snaps of the annual Christchurch, Ray Blank Park, Culture Galore festival. At Culture Galore expats proudly showed their heritage. In 2008, there was singing, music and dancing, food and craft stalls, jumping castle, "rock climbing," and Beijing Olympics costumes. Some of the United Nations tribes I saw: Southern African, English, Scottish, Scandinavians, Indians, Russians, Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Japanese, Niueans, Samoans, Fijians, Maori, French, Dutch, Hungarians, Greeks, Balkans, Serbs, Macedonians, Indonesians, Filipinos, Latin Americans, Nepalese, Afrikaners, Arabs, cops, security, garbage collectors, journalists.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

< 2008 Arab man with incense, Culture Galore, Ray Blank Park, Christchurch, NZ.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

SA email about Eskom's rationing of electricity:

"We have had a break from Eskom's load shedding, but it will apparently start again next week. They are introducing electricity "rations" and if we exceed what we are allowed to use, we will be fined. We all have to cut back or continue with rolling power cuts."