South Africa

INVESTIGATION UPDATE

Western Cape illegal rehabs in the spotlight after Hout Bay residents speak out over Eleanore’s Recovery Centre

Western Cape illegal rehabs in the spotlight after Hout Bay residents speak out over Eleanore’s Recovery Centre
A Wendy house at Eleanore's Recovery Centre in Hout Bay. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Following Daily Maverick’s investigation into the squalid conditions at an unregistered rehabilitation centre in Hout Bay, the Western Cape Department of Social Development has announced that it will be seeking court orders to close down such facilities. In the interim, further allegations have emerged about Eleanore’s Recovery Centre.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) has identified 66 illegally operating drug rehabilitation centres in the province in the past year.

The scale of the problem of illegal rehabs was made clear in a statement released by the DSD late last week, following the publication of a Daily Maverick investigation into the squalid conditions at one such facility in the Cape Town suburb of Hout Bay.

The DSD stated that it had reached out to all 66 “unregistered treatment programmes and facilities to assist them with compliance and registration”.

From left: Allison Booysen, Lezanne Drayer and Simone Smith speak to Daily Maverick about their experiences of living at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre in Hout Bay, Cape Town, 15 September 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

In order to be registered — and therefore legal — these centres need to obtain zoning, safety, health and food preparation clearances from the local municipality. They are also required to have qualified social workers, nurses and psychologists on their staff, as well as appropriate treatment plans.

In the case of Eleanore’s Recovery Centre — the rehab visited by Daily Maverick — none of these criteria appeared to be met. When asked for the necessary registration certificate, director Robin de Wit showed us instead the certification for a nonprofit company — which appears to be a ruse used by illegal rehabs.

The DSD said that despite its efforts to engage with illegal rehabs, a number of them had ignored the required steps to become compliant within the allocated time frame. The department is now approaching the Western Cape High Court to force these facilities to close.

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Separately, DSD spokesperson Esther Lewis told Daily Maverick the department had launched an investigation into Eleanore’s Recovery Centre and several other illegal rehabs.

“Where clients’ rights have been violated, we urge them to report this to police,” Lewis said.

There are only two inpatient government rehabs in the Western Cape, creating a huge demand for cheap residential treatment programmes. This is a gap increasingly filled by illegal rehabs, where incidents of abuse, violence and even murder have been reported in the past.

Daily Maverick documented appalling conditions for female patients at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre, with eight women living in a tiny, stinking shack with broken windows and no toilet facilities.

Since the publication of the investigation, further sources have come forward with information about the centre.

A concerned resident of the area, who asked not to be named due to past intimidation attempts, said there had been numerous “unpleasant” encounters between neighbours and the centre’s management, due mainly to security and noise complaints.

The interior of a Wendy house where six women sleep on bunk beds at Eleanore’s Recovery Centre in Hout Bay, Cape Town, 15 September 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Documentation seen by Daily Maverick shows that in February, an intimidation case was laid at the Hout Bay Police Station following one of the Eleanore’s Recovery Centre managers allegedly threatening a neighbour with a firearm.

“At nighttime, it’s party time, and the music can run all through the night,” the resident claimed, describing such revelry as “bizarre” for a supposed rehabilitation facility.

According to the resident, on four occasions security beams on a neighbouring estate have been triggered by “female runaways who bail over the back fence” in an attempt to escape the rehab.

On one such occasion of which he had personal knowledge, the resident said that the female patient in question had been “caught and returned” to the rehab by management.

A spokesperson for the board of the Oakwood/Hughenden/Meadows Community Improvement District, in which area the rehab operates, told Daily Maverick: “Multiple complaints have been received about the rehabilitation centre regarding excessive noise and unruly behaviour.”

The spokesperson confirmed that rehab patients had been witnessed trying to flee the rehab on a number of occasions, saying: “A handful of the occupants who have been there for rehabilitation have tried to escape through the forest.”

A representative of a Hout Bay security firm estimated that his company had encountered five such rehab runaways within the past two years, with the patients witnessed by patrolling security guards when fleeing from the centre late at night.

Both the spokesperson and the representative did not wish to be named for security reasons, as they live in the area.

Eleanore’s Recovery Centre directors De Wit and Eleanore Hendricks previously denied to Daily Maverick that any patients were kept at the rehab against their will. But video footage seen by Daily Maverick, as reported in our investigation, showed a female patient pleading to be allowed to leave the rehab and not being permitted to do so.

Daily Maverick asked De Wit and Hendricks this week for their response to the allegations from three different sources that multiple patients had tried to run away from the rehab at night.

The two directors — who signed off their email as “Pastor Robin and Apostle Eleanore” — did not respond to the question.

“We [do] our best to council [sic] [patients] and to add God to [patients’] life,” they wrote.

Financially we are going through something but we [are] trying to cope with the strain [and] we have taken money out of our own pockets to run our recovery centre.”

The property out of which the illegal rehab operates is owned by Hout Bay businessman Andrew Broome. Broome refused to comment to Daily Maverick on Tuesday, saying only: “I do not want to prejudice my court action.” He would not elaborate. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I laugh when I read that zoning, plan approval is needed in SA. What about the million of illegal shacks in informal settlements all around this country? And why the absence of decent rehab centres for the drug epidemic we currently face here? If the ANC were doing their jobs and not stealing taxpayers contributions perhaps illegal drug rehab centres wouldn’t exist.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Why reach out, whatever that means, to illegal establishments? Just shut them down. What next? Reach out to criminal syndicates and ask them to behave? It’s this crazy ideas of ‘rights’ – forgetting that breaking the law is not a right. I do believe that evangelical outfits with their ‘pastors and apostles ‘ are given undue deference generally.

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