Daily Maverick

That uses Christian ‘teachings’


Sarah did not stop pleading to be freed. She had been kidnapped on 12 September. The following day, a male relative arrived at the rehab gates and demanded Sarah’s release. He was not permitted to enter the grounds. In a video seen by DM168, Sarah is prompted by her relative to verbally confirm her desire to leave.

A clearly frightened Sarah, her arms wrapped around her chest, says: “I would like to come with you.” A male member of Hendricks’s team clutches Sarah around the shoulder and mugs for the camera, mocking Sarah’s relative.

De Wit would subsequent­ly send the relative a WhatsApp message, seen by DM168, threatenin­g: “You fucking idiot I suma [sommer] come to your house now and fuck you up.”

Sarah was not permitted to leave.

Why would people sign up their loved ones for facilities like Eleanore’s Recovery Centre even if they know the reality of what they are like? In South Africa, the cheap rates offered by these illegal rehabs are clearly a major part of the answer, but possibly not all of it.

“There is this sense that treatment for addiction should be punitive,” said addiction counsellor Freddie van Rensburg.

Because addiction is still so stigmatise­d, there is a widespread perception that addicts are “using [drugs] because they want to use” and are consequent­ly deserving of punishment for their weak willpower.

Van Rensburg added that some families may enrol members into such facilities out of sheer desperatio­n and hopelessne­ss.

“Addicts can threaten the social, psychologi­cal and physical wellbeing of a family. Other family members can become really afraid and make decisions simply based on what will get the addict out of the house.”

The addiction counsellor said legitimate facilities would treat both the addiction and the mental health issues underlying it. They would empower the patient with education on the nature of addiction, carry out both group and individual therapy and encourage healthy living.

And although most rehabs would incorporat­e some form of “spiritual work”, relying only on Christian teachings to treat addiction was insufficie­nt. “This person is not using [drugs] because he doesn’t have God in his life. He’s using because he’s in pain and he has some serious shit going on in his life,” Van Rensburg said.

Western Cape department of social developmen­t spokespers­on Esther Lewis said that in order for a rehab to receive certificat­ion from the provincial authoritie­s, multiple criteria must be met. Zoning, safety, health and food preparatio­n clearances must be obtained. If patients are going to detox at the rehab, a special licence from the Department of Health must be obtained.

The facility must have a “qualified, multi-disciplina­ry team of profession­als” in place: social workers, nurses, psychologi­sts.

“Registered rehab centres must follow a bio-psycho-social approach, which means the health, mental and social dimensions of the client are addressed in the treatment plans.”

Lewis confirmed that Eleanore’s Recovery Centre is not registered with the department. It is, in other words, an illegal rehab.

Sarah’s male relative, deeply concerned for her welfare based on what he had seen through the rehab gates, was not prepared to let the matter slide.

He contacted DM168. He phoned the human traffickin­g hotline. He tried, without success, to engage the interest of the Hout Bay police. The Western Cape social developmen­t department eventually took him seriously and promised to investigat­e.

Apparently spooked, Hendricks and De Wit suddenly opted to release Sarah. Her relative received a message instructin­g him, without explanatio­n, to pick her up.

When released, Sarah had been held at the rehab for seven days.

visited Eleanore’s Recovery Centre on 15 September without forewarnin­g. We drew up at the gates at the same time as “apostle” Hendricks and De Wit, who agreed to talk to us and let us view the facility.

The first thing we saw was a very thin woman, sitting on a chair in the sun, who appeared to be catatonic. A thin thread of drool hung from her mouth. The other female patients informed us that they had been told she was “bipolar”.

Elsewhere on the premises, the descriptio­ns Sarah had given to proved accurate. The shack housing the female patients was tiny, crammed with bunk beds and it stank of faeces and urine.

By contrast, the house in which Hendricks, De Wit and their extended family lived was a sprawling farmhouse.

“We are registered, yes,” De Wit said, ushering us into the lounge and handing us a framed certificat­e – which proved to be the registrati­on for a “non-profit company”, not a rehab, based in Philippi, not Hout Bay.

“Our conditions are not 100%,” De Wit admitted, blaming this on the low fees charged by the rehab.

It was difficult to square the claims of financial woes with the number of patients he said were currently enrolled – 30 – which would be bringing in monthly fees of R54,000 without counting registrati­on fees.

In addition, the rehab’s Facebook page reveals almost constant fundraisin­g activities, ostensibly undertaken to support the facility. The next such event, scheduled for 25 September, is a “Jazz on Lawn” afternoon to be held in the rehab’s name in Pinelands, with entrance at R150 a person and a vendor’s fee of R800.

De Wit flatly denied having held Sarah against her will. “We would not keep her here without her permission,” he said.

When he was told that had seen a video of Sarah clearly asking to leave and not being allowed to do so, De Wit shot back: “Well, that’s why we let her leave after that.”

He could not explain why it had taken them a further six days to release her.

De Wit and Hendricks also denied other aspects of Sarah’s story, including the inadequate toilet facilities.

“They choose to pee in a bucket,” Hendricks said, explaining that the patients were welcome to use the family’s indoor toilet, but preferred not to do so at night.

She said the patients were also “welcome to come bath”, but they preferred to wash themselves from a bucket.

With reference to the counsellin­g facilities available at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre, De Wit said that both he and Hendricks led “counsellin­g teams”. Asked if either of them possessed the necessary qualificat­ions, he pointed at Hendricks and said: “She does.”

Hendricks said she held a degree in theology and had undergone pastoral training and three months of counsellin­g training.

When asked to speak to the female patients, the rehab owners agreed without hesitation and soon five women entered the farmhouse.

These patients were unanimous: they were very happy in the “Kingdom”, as they called it. They were treated well and they considered themselves much safer inside the rehab than out on the streets from where most of them had come.

One said she had been there five years and had no intention of leaving yet. Another said she had been to two “expensive” rehabs before Eleanore’s Recovery Centre and this was “the only one that worked”.

Earlier, De Wit had told us: “These are people that have nowhere to go.”

When Sarah spoke to DM168, she had only been out of the rehab for two days. She said the experience had been so traumatic that her hands still shook whenever she tried to light a cigarette.

It seemed clear that Sarah was going through a kind of survivor’s guilt, for being able to leverage her middle-class status and contacts to escape the rehab when others could not. She said she was the only female patient who had matric; a number, she claimed, could not even read.

“Now, I’m too scared to leave the house. I don’t even want to go to the shop,” Sarah said.

“I am so scared that they could just arrive and take me back again.”

*Name changed to protect identity.

 ?? ?? Simone Smith on one of the bunk beds in a Wendy house where women sleep at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre.
Simone Smith on one of the bunk beds in a Wendy house where women sleep at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre.
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 ?? ?? Above: One of the patients leaves the Wendy house where she and six other women sleep at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre.
Below: Simone Smith speaks to DM168 about her experience.
Above: One of the patients leaves the Wendy house where she and six other women sleep at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre. Below: Simone Smith speaks to DM168 about her experience.

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