Families' agony as mentally ill patients disappear
THE families of mentally ill patients who have disappeared from a centre for people with disabilities in Limpopo have blamed lax security for their loved ones' disappearance.
The Epilepsy SA Elandsdoorn Centre, situated in Elandsdoorn outside Moutse and run by NGO Epilepsy SA, has no security.
The gates are manned by patients with less severe mental illness.
Three patients have gone missing from the centre in the past four years.
The latest patient to disappear is 37-year-old Moses Makitla. His brother Mothibedi Makitla said they sent him to the centre in May because his mental state had been deteriorating.
"In addition to the mental illness he has asthma, epilepsy and he suffered a stroke," he said.
The centre manager Peter Tjale confirmed that Makitla came to the centre in May.
Tjale said Makitla always complained that he wanted to go home. His family lives about 20 minutes away from the centre.
In 2009, David Seshoka, then 27, went missing from the centre's residence. Seshoka is mute and was last seen before bedtime. He has not been found since.
Seshoka's aunt Makeku Sisa said: "This is disturbing, how can a person go missing without a trace? It's like someone steals them. The worst part is that the school only decided to search for David three or four days after his disappearance."
In 2010, Strike Mohlamonyane also disappeared from the centre.
Tjale said: "We cannot say he [Mohlamonyane] went missing in our care. He was sent to us by social workers and one day he just left. He had a history of disappearing."
About security at the centre, Tjale said: "We currently do not have security. We have challenges in that regard. During the day we use the residents to man the gate. At night we have no security, but we have staff members that live on the premises."
The Epilepsy SA centre accommodates 80 patients.
The patients stay at the centre and are taught skills such as metalwork, woodwork, gardening and building maintenance, depending on their mental capabilities.
The Seshoka and Makitla families said they had tried everything, even traditional healers, to locate their loved ones.
Dennilton police spokeswoman Constable Mmapitso Aphane confirmed the three cases. She said Makitla's case was opened in July.
She said anyone with information should contact them on 013-983 0161.
Limpopo spokeswoman for health and social development Sinenhlanhla Gumede said she could not comment on the norms and standards regarding security at care centres. - firstname.lastname@example.org
- This article was first published in print on 8 August 2012