Noupoort's days numbered
By Willem Jordaan and Enrico Claassen
Die Burger, June 23, 2004

Cape Town - The days of the controversial Christian Care Centre in Noupoort might be numbered after a task team of experts found that there had been human rights abuses and other irregularities at this drug rehabilitation centre.

The centre's management are opposing the findings and maintain that the centre should continue operating.

Social Development Minister Dr Zola Skweyiya announced on Tuesday that he was considering closing the centre and that the directors should provide reasons why he shouldn't do this. He said the centre would not be granted a permanent registration as a rehabilitation centre.

A series of events clouded the centre in controversy. A patient committed suicide by hanging himself, and the body of Logal Klingenberg, 16, was found in a punishment cell.

The task team found that human rights abuses were commonplace at Noupoort despite the centre being run on a temporary registration. This was granted two years ago on condition that the centre runs its programmes within the ambit of the law. The team found that the centre did not comply with the acts on childcare and treatment of substance abusers.

Dr Nomathemba Kela, leader of the task team, said a report on irregularities and shortcomings in the running of the centre would be released on Friday.

These included "military style exercise programmes" during which young patients were submitted to hours of strenuous exercise without the opportunity to rest and "excessive discipline". Unqualified staff members were employed, and in some cases, patients acted as staff. In some instances, patients were denied contact with their families.

The detoxification and medication programmes also did not comply with requirements.

Terrible odour

Kela said one of the living quarters was underground and lacked proper ventilation. A "terrible odour" hung in the air.

The kitchen was unhygienic and a lot of food was no longer fresh. The centre's financial statements also didn't comply with requirements.

"The government cannot tolerate this situation," Skweyiya said.

He said alternative arrangements would be made for the centre's patients.

"We won't turn these people out onto the streets of Noupoort or Cape Town."

However, the centre's management has dug in its heels.

Personnel chief Tokkie van Wyk said: "Even if the minister refuses us permanent registration we will continue with the rehabilitation of drug addicts."

Director Pastor Sophocles Nissiotis said the centre had to remain open because it obtained a 100% matric and grade 10 pass rate.

Nissiotis believed that the minister was biased. Two years ago Skweyiya had already indicated that the centre would have been closed if it depended on him.

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