LAST year a boy died under strange circumstances after a stint at an unregistered rehabilitation centre. Five months later, the centre has disappeared without a trace.
Siraj Charles (19) was booked into a rehabilitation centre in Klip Road, Grassy Park on 5 October last year. He apparently ran away from the centre two days later.
He apparently went home, but his parents allegedly phoned the centre to pick him up. When he was returned to the centre on 7 October, the owners noticed something was wrong with him, and took him to Victoria Hospital. Charles died on the way.
Witnesses from within the centre came forward and said he had been covered in bruises.
But a cloud is still hanging over the mysterious circumstances of Charles's death. "We are still following up on information and the suspect or suspects are still at large. The post mortem report is not available yet," says Inspector Bernadine Steyn, police spokesperson.
After the death and several allegations of abuse levelled at the facility, the Department of Social Development launched its own investigation into the conditions at the facility.
"We found nothing wrong with the centre, but the assessment revealed it did not meet the minimum requirements and standards for a rehabilitation facility," says Siyabulela Mkhokheli, the department's spokesperson.
He says the department did not plan to shut down the facility.
Instead, they formulated a capacity building plan for the rehabilitation centre. "When the plan was to be launched, they closed down," Mkhokheli says.
He adds that months after the breakdown in communication, the department is still trying to track down the whereabouts of the owner. But employees at Circle of Friends rehabilitation centre in Grassy Park, who are adamant they have never had any affiliation with the Klip Road centre, say the Klip Road operators are now operating "somewhere in Woodstock".
Meanwhile, unregistered rehabilitation centres may soon become a thing of the past. All unregistered rehabilitation centres will be closed down in a joint effort between the City of Cape Town and the Departments of Social Development and Health. Grant Haskin, Deputy Mayor, is doing on-site visits to facilities to explain the application and registration process.
While there is no deadline for registration, he is urging everyone to comply as soon as possible.
Haskin's spokesperson, Jacques Maritz, says 21 new centres have been registered thus far, and 17 more are in the application process. Maritz says the point is not so much to shut down unregistered facilities, but to build up a database and to "get everyone on a level playing field".
Provincial government's reasoning is slightly different. The need for the move, says Phumzile Simelela, another department spokesperson, is that "drug rehabilitation should be left to experts". He says operators must register so they can account for all outcomes from the service they provide.
This would allow the government to monitor their operations and provide the necessary training. "When using unregistered sites, people run the risk of sending their loved ones for unconfirmed treatment and this could further aggravate the condition of the addict," Simelela says.
. The Prevention and Treatment of Substance Dependency Act states: "No person shall manage any institution or other place maintained mainly for the accommodation and care of persons who are dependant on drugs or in which such persons receive mainly physical, psychological, spiritual or social treatment, except a treatment centre, unless such a place is registered under the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Dependency Act."