Hard labour, assault at camp 'in Jesus' name'
NEWS24.CO.ZA, May 17, 2001
Cape Town - Hard labour, shackles, no food or water, assault and appalling treatment are among the punishments drug addicts admitted to Noupoort have to endure in "the name of the Lord".
Dr Tella van Niekerk of Durbanville on Thursday disclosed how she arrived at the centre and had been unable to walk for two weeks. Her pleas to consult a psychologist and to receive treatment for depression were dismissed, since she was deemed "ungrateful and that she had not found the Lord yet".
"For the first two weeks I was unable to walk, to turn over in bed, bath or eat - the pain had been so severe. When I complained I was punished. I was not allowed to talk to anybody for five weeks. I was not allowed to go to the toilet by myself. I was not even allowed to make eye contact with other people," she said.
Van Niekerk, a general practitioner, following two back operations had been using pethidene as a painkiller, and became addicted to the drug.
She was admitted to Noupoort on a court order. Little did she anticipate the hell that still awaited her at this place, located between Colesberg and Middelburg, where no medical or psychiatric help was available.
'Pray and your asthma will disappear'
Her anti-depressants and asthma pump were taken from her, as she reportedly would "become addicted to them". She had difficulty breathing at night and had to sit up in bed for fear of suffocating.
"I was told to pray and my asthma would disappear."
She had tried to escape a few times but was tracked down every time and returned, and severely punished. Her parents were told she refused to co-operate. When she was at an emotional ebb she was told that her parents did not want anything to do with her.
All her letters were censored and any criticism of the centre was excised. The letters in which she begged her parents to fetch her were never posted, she discovered afterwards.
She was constantly told that she was an "embarrassment to society and that she was possessed by the devil". Van Niekerk's toothbrush, deodorant and make-up was taken from her as punishment, and she was only given two changes of clothing.
As punishment she was forced to bath in cold water in winter, or to bath in other people's dirty bath water. And she was refused food if she did not dig huge holes every day. She was even chained to her bed.
'In the name of Jesus! Do 100 sit-ups!'
They shouted: "In the name of Jesus! Do 100 sit-ups!".
Van Niekerk tried to commit suicide seven times - not as a result of her drug addiction, but because of the atrocities committed at the centre. She was chained to a pole by her one arm while a man pulled with all his might on her other arm until she cried out in pain.
On another day she was punched in the face and stomach. Van Niekerk was refused permission to see her husband and children for eight months.
After ten months she could no longer take it, and for the umpteenth time fled, and managed to escape. She managed to contact her parents and they admitted her to a different centre.
"I went through hell, I promise you, but I have recovered," she said.
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