THE PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT IN SECTOR 10
"Psychological Services, Sector 10, offer a comprehensive psychological service to soldiers (national servicemen and permanent force members) and police serving in Sector 10, the wives and children of the permanent force members, and to the local white civilian population. Services are also offered to the units in Sector 10, with regard to assessment of members showing behaviour problems, psychopathology, or substance abuse disorders, and making recommendations regarding their management or therapy, and offering such therapy. The psychology service also offers an 'industrial psychology' service to units in Sector 10. This involved 'Organisational Development'; identifying and overcoming personality clashes which interfere with functioning of the unit, improving communication and feedback within the unit, and doing anything else which may lead to the improved functioning of the unit which can be achieved by psychological means."
- extract from my report on my border duty
CAPTAIN CHARL DE WET
Captain Charl de Wet and I were the two psychologists stationed in Sector 10, although Charl was stationed there permanently. He had joined the SAMS specifically for this post, and he had started there less than a year before I arrived. I had met him at 1 Mil before he started in Sector 10, and I had not liked him then. He swaggered around, and seemed to be very self opinionated, and I disliked that impression of him. I had contemplating asking to be based at Ondangwa, so as to keep away from him, but I did not do so. During the time that we worked together, we became used to each other. I ended up liking him, and I still feel positive about him now. (I would like to know where he is now that in 1990, South African Troops have all been withdrawn from Namibia, as it is now known.)
Charl came from a traditional Afrikaner family, and grew up as the youngest of a large family on a farm in the central Orange Free State. After school, he had joined the permanent force and became a PT instructor - surely one of the most hated types of people in the army. He wore his PTI emblem, crossed swords, on his uniform, with a patch of non-regulation springbok hide as a backing for them. After four years, he went to university and six years later he qualified as a clinical psychologist. He came to Oshakati because he saw it as an opportunity to get a great deal of experience in working with a wide range of problems in a short time.
Charl had a large office, which I used when he was away. Apart from Ordnance Survey maps of the operational area, it was decorated with the programmes of various musical stage shows. Charl's office had its own door into the 'play room'. Charl was very pleased with the snooker table which he acquired for the playroom, but I found that it was a distraction from the child assessments that I wanted to do, as the children usually wanted to play with it, rather than talk about what I considered more relevant issues.
Charl was very sporty, and about his only contact with the national service medics officers was when he joined in their games of volleyball.
I gather that my predecessor, Martin Broodryk, had practically moved in with Charl, which I did not do, but we had some fun evenings socialising together. I 'house sat' for him during a holiday he and his wife took in South Africa. He had a Jacuzzi on the back porch, which was popular with my friends from the mess who came to visit me while I lived there. While he was on leave down in South Africa, he phoned once to ask me to take measurements of various windows in his house, for which he wanted to have new curtains made. Despite my best efforts, I could not find his tape measure where he told me it would be, so I used a standard object like a pack of cigarettes, and gave him the dimensions in terms of how ever many packet-lengths long, by so many wide. I don't remember whether this was satisfactory enough for him to work out the dimensions of the curtains he wanted made. While I house sat for them, their domestic assistant came in once or twice a week.
Charl's wife, Lizette, was a medical doctor who had been an officer in the medics in Sector 10 for a short while - apparently, although in uniform, she never got the hang of what to do when junior ranks saluted her. According to Enrico, she just used to give an embarrassed giggle, and drop her eye contact. When I was there, she worked at the civilian, largely black, local hospital, and saw private patients at home. Charl was a true chauvinist, and would expect Lizette to do all the housework in spite of her working longer hours that he did. Or did she just do it when I was there to leave Charl free to chat to me? I liked them both.
Lizette told of how she had once found a skunk in their house. She called Charl to come and remove it. Charl was still asleep, and jumped out of bed, grabbed his R1 rifle, and went to his wife's rescue. Imagine a photo of Charl as the 'Great White Hunter', standing with his arms outstretched at shoulder level with his rifle in one hand, and the dead skunk, hanging by its tail, in the other.
Charl was discussing the random assignment of numbers to Infantry Battalions. "54 Battalion implies that there are at least 54 Battalions here. Maybe that's the only reason why the enemy has not made a full frontal attack!" he contemplated.
Charl still did things which annoyed me, like bursting into my room without knocking, 'to see what I was doing', even when I was busy seeing a patient. He would also rummage through my files, and tell me that he wanted me to keep them in alphabetical order - which I deliberately did not do. Once we were driving somewhere, and we came across a herd of cows which was blocking our way. Charl became impatient with edging his car forward through it. One cow turned and stared at us full on. Charl rammed it, and I heard the thud as the bonnet connected the cow's forehead. I told Charl off for being cruel, but he didn't seem to think that he had been unreasonable. I'm sure there must have been things that I did that annoyed him, but I don't know what these were. Will Charl write his own book to get even?
Charl was loyal to me, and backed me up on all the important things, most important of which I considered the reporting of suspected abuse of national servicemen to their Officers Commanding. Things could have been very unpleasant for me if Charl had not backed me up in such cases.
One evening I developed what was diagnosed as German Measles. I had a blinding headache, some photo-sensitivity, and I wanted to scratch all the skin off my body. I knew there was something wrong with me, and sought out the duty doctor. I forget which one it was, but he suggested that I should be off work for two weeks. Enrico had had German Measles before and so was immune. I went to lie on my bed, feeling sorry for myself. Charl arrived to visit me the next day, the first time that I had seen him in Protea Officers' Quarters. He swaggered into my room, and rather shyly presented me with a little straw basket containing fruit, a can of coke and some sweets. It was so cute! It was difficult not to like Charl after such a gesture. It couldn't actually have been German Measles, for two days later I felt better, and returned to work. Apparently the medics were in the process of informing my next of kin that I was incapacitated due to illness, but they hadn't proceeded far with this by the time I had recovered. It was an almost tropical area, and there were all sorts of bugs and viruses floating about.
Charl knew of my friendship with Andrew, a doctor serving at one of the outer bases, who had had some 'psychological' problems adjusting to being on the border. Charl suspected that Andrew was gay, and asked me this directly once. "No," I told him, feeling greater loyalty to Andrew than to Charl.
"It wouldn't make any difference," Charl told me. "I was just curious." Then the conversation was joined by others, and someone made a humorous remark that maybe I was gay. Charl said he was convinced that I was not gay because I had spend quite a lot of time with him, but I had not made a pass at him once. (Maybe he's just not my type!)
Charl had the mild humiliation of having to admit that in the year or so that he had been based in Oshakati, he had not yet been there when a 'Rev' had taken place. On one occasion he was at an outer lying base, where intelligence had reported that there was a 110% probability of a rev that night. Charl went there to be ready to start the debriefing as soon as the rev was over. The expected rev never happened, but while Charl was out there waiting for it, Oshakati was revved. Rather embarrassing really!
- extract from my report on my border duty
As the second psychologist, I was given a little office accessible only through other offices. Charl, the first psychologist, has a large office, and the one next door (with a telephone), has a carpet, some paper, a sink, felt tipped pens and is called the 'Playroom'. My office has no basin or telephone. There is a door to the passage, but it is locked and no-one has a key. No-one has ever had a key. I asked the RSM to have the lock changed, and he said that they couldn't get a new lock to replace it with. He didn't try. The playroom is accessible only through Charl's office. He keeps his office locked, and forgets to hand over the key when he goes away. He said I could buy my own key, which I have done. He has arranged to get paints from the local school, but has not managed to go and fetch them yet.
Outside my office lives Sister Bertha Snyman, who did pre-natal and baby clinics. She is also supposed to be the psychologists' secretary, when she's available, which is seldom the case. Sometimes she's busy, but at other times she has nothing much to do, and people come in to chat with her - at the tops of their voices it sounds to me through the paper thin walls. She has a high pitched voice and always seems to whine, and always seems to make more noise speaking than she needs to. Often the Chief Health Inspector, Dirk Cloete, himself not a busy man, seeks out her company and they sit in her office, outside mine, and talk, so that I can hear every word. His voice is low and booming and comes under the door (as well as through the walls) and hers is shrill and whining, and slips through above the door, and I sit at my desk in an ultra-irritable mood, staring at where I know they are through the wall, urging them to "Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off!"
CHILD PATIENTS SEEN BY THE PSYCHOLOGISTS
As I advised my successor; `It takes a while to build up a clientele, so expect not to be too busy for the first week or two. After that you are kept busy.' Quite a large percentage of my work on the border involved working with children, doing assessments and therapy, for learning problems, emotional and behavioural problems. This I found interesting and stimulating, and it revived my interest in working with children, which had lain dormant for the previous eighteen months. I found it somewhat ironic being paid fifteen rand a day over and above my ordinary salary, and spending part of my working day playing with children. ('Play therapy' is more formal than this comment implies!)
Major Kevin Holmes introduced the concept of 'R-kids'; children of permanent force members. Military vehicles all have registration plates starting with the letter 'R'. This was kinder than the alternative; `Army brats'.
A little seven year old boy was on my list of referrals when I arrived. He was Wouter, son of a HQ staff Captain. He was having concentration difficulties at school, and his mother arrived at the psychology department asking if we could help her son with his school work. He was a delightful little lad, and I carried out educational assessments on him, and found that he had specific concentration difficulties, which, from previous experience, I thought might respond positively to medication, which I arranged with his doctor.
The doctor was helpful, and started the child on Ritalin(Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is now more controversial. It is often requested by parents who want their `difficult' child `drugged' rather than taking the responsibility to manage their child's behaviour themselves. A side effect of Ritalin can be damage to the pituitary gland, which can lead to stunted physical development.). His school work improved, his teacher was impressed, and his mother was grateful. At last a satisfied customer! Wouter called his tablets his 'Slim maak pille' (Clever-making pills).
In spite of having a father who was well established in the military, one afternoon when I was handing little Wouter back to his mother at the end of the session, asked, with growing excitement; "Uncle, next time you go shooting, can I come along? Or if you go out in a tank, could you let me come along with you, or if you go in a lorry, or a jeep, or even a 'bakkie' , could I come along for a ride?"
The tank was right out, of course, but we had Rinkhals Mine Resistant Ambulances which drove through to Ondangwa fairly regularly. I saw no reason why we couldn't take him there and back with us one day. I suggested this to his mother, and she said that he would like this very much. I mentioned this to the drivers and asked them to let me known of any such trips which we could take the little lad along on. Willie Bronkhorst seemed to take a particular interest in this venture.
A day or two later, Willie told me that an appropriate trip was about to happen, and I phoned Wouter's mother, who said that he was in the bath, but he would be delighted to go.
We would pass his house on the way out of Oshakati, so we arranged to pick him up. So, seven year old Wouter was fetched from his door by a twelve ton mine resistant ambulance. I bet he hoped that all his friends saw him get lifted aboard. We were on the road for about an hour, and I'm sure he got bored, although he would not admit it. He insisted on holding my rifle (no magazine) until his little arms grew tired. I took a photo of him in it, wearing my beret and holding my rifle, and I sent his parents a copy. It was a pity that the drivers, who were just in the photo weren't in uniform though. They used the excuse that it was an emergency and they had not had time to change into uniform, and no one ever queried this.
Captain Charl de Wet had been a PT Instructor for three years before studying to be a psychologist. We were holding a Thursday afternoon clinic at the Air Force Chapel at Ondangwa. Charl was doing an intelligence test on a child whom he described as 'thick as a brick!' ("Mammie, wat beteken 'Fiek as a briek'?" - "Mommie, what does 'Thick as a Brick' mean?") within hearing distance of the child. I was working (also doing an IQ test) in the church hall. Every few minutes I saw the child jogging around the church hall. I accused Charl of making him run every time he made a mistake. (Being sent running is a common military punishment during basic training!) My client was 5 IQ points more intelligent that Charl's child. Pity, I liked the child.
After having spent most of a Saturday doing an educational assessment of two little boys from the school at Ruacana, Dawid and Migiel, the step-father said; 'Its a pity you're English, otherwise we could have had a nice chat.' How was that for a kick in the teeth? I hadn't spoken a word of English the whole time.
Charl saw or 'treated' a little girl, who screamed solidly for a couple of hours, to the distress of most of those in the AG Complex. The English-speaking administration clerk kept rushing in to see what was going on. I spoke to Charl about this later, probably questioning the ethics of what he had been doing, but he assured me that it was an accepted approach - whatever he had been doing - and offered to lend me an article on the technique. I didn't take him up on this, but it never happened again.
I received a referral for a four-year-old child with a problem with encopresis (soiling). Martin had apparently been checked out medically and no explanation was found. His family was very unusual. They had nothing whatsoever to do with the army, but chose the army medical treatment rather than the Owambo Administration Hospital (this was the normal practise amongst the white civilians). His mother was English speaking, and his father was of German origin. Mother said that father had a doctorate in industrial psychology, but no longer practised, and in spite of his psychology training (admittedly industrial) he took no interest in Martin's upbringing. Both parents had worked in communication, but had then settled it Oshakati where they owned a shop. Martin attended the army run nursery, although he was a civilian child, and there were many army kids on the waiting list. The problem seemed to come and go, and mother tended to only bring him in when the problem had been bad, and she cancelled appointments when he was not a problem, so I never did get to the bottom of the problem.
An eleven-year-old boy was referred to me because he would not eat vegetables. (Was this a problem?) I interviewed the lad, who was very pleasant. He had a lot of things going for him; he was clever at school, athletic, but seemed to be inhibited by his parents, and could not entertain friends. I worked with him on trying to improve his self-concept, which was surprisingly poor. I don't know whether he ever did manage to eat vegetables without 'his eyes filling up with tears', but he was the patient I was most sorry to say goodbye to when I ended my tour of duty.
Another young child's biographical details indicated that his father was a Koevoet Colonel. His mother told me that his father would pick him up at the end of the appointment. I waited with the lad at the end of the session. He indicated his father's car, and I snapped off 'my best salute' as the car stopped in front of us. The father, an ineffective looking person, ignored this completely. I saw that his rank was Staff Sergeant. He should have saluted me, but Koevoet were notorious for not showing and respect for the military. I updated our information; that the kid's father was a Staff Sergeant.
PSYCHOLOGISTS' ADULT PATIENTS
Is it just in psychology circles that a 'Nymphomaniac' is described as someone '... you hear a lot about but never meet?' I met one, although I arrived at a diagnosis of 'Bipolar Affective Disorder', which is clinically kinder and less exciting. She was a civilian, but married to a PF army NCO, and she worked as a secretary to the OC of one of the army units based in Oshakati. The 2IC had shown an interest in her, but the OC had nipped this in the bud. Things came to a head when she entertained three corporals, her husband's colleagues, in her house while he was away, and took all three of them to bed - individually as I recall. Skande! Outrage!
Her husband wanted the psychologists to 'sort her out'. She had lost interest in her husband and was thinking of leaving him, taking their child, and returning to South Africa. She was a very striking woman, mostly because she wore very heavy make up all the time, but as therapy progressed, I noticed that she was reducing the amount of make up she was wearing. I took this to be an indication that the therapy was working. She was a very decent person underneath, and appeared to be a devoted mother, if not a loyal wife.
I had a self-referral from a white Captain from one of the local Black Units, who arrived late one Friday afternoon bringing his wife with him. Their relationship had broken up; he was 'out in the field with "Romeo Mikes" (Reaction Force)' for two week periods almost continuously, leaving her in the claustrophobically small white military community at Ondangwa. He was not prepared to ask for other work which would keep him at the base more often, because he enjoyed his work so much. His wife said that she felt nothing for him anymore. He wanted me to convince her that she should feel something for him again, so that their marriage could be resurrected without him having to compromise in any way. This couple was not one of my greatest successes.
I saw another adult female patient, and I forget what her problem was. I remember that her husband was in Koevoet, and that they did heavy-duty weight lifting together.
A patient was referred from Oshivello(My sister's fiance, now husband, Neil Langley, was a national service infantry lieutenant who spent some time at Oshivello while I was in Oshakati. Some of the young infantry officers from the mess passed on greetings between us, but we did not meet up.), the retraining base for infantry about to be posted to the actual border. The chap was a cook, and the referral was bizarre, describing Satanistic practices reported by the chaplain, including the sacrificing of birds. He was reported to have broken an egg over someone's head and told their fortune from the yolk. Never a dull moment! The doctor questioned whether the patient might be suffering from schizophrenia. Neither the chaplain nor the doctor seemed to have first hand information about the patient.
I evaluated the chap, looking especially for thought disorders, bizarre thinking, any psychosis or delusions, but found none. He seemed to be a rather simple lad, who wasn't sure why he had been sent through to Oshakati, or why he was seeing a psychologist - not that he objected to this. Coming up with nothing from the interview, I asked him about having done unusual things with animals. He smiled at this, and said that he had made a joke of breaking an egg over the head of one of his friends in the kitchen - no egg involved; you `clunk' your fingertips together on someone's head to indicate the shell cracking, and then spread your fingers down over his hair, which gives a warm sensation. I remember the prank from school. That was it. He denied sacrificing any animals, or any other strange behaviour. I contacted the MO and the chaplain saying that at present I could find nothing wrong with the lad. Could they give me more details of his bizarre behaviour? Nothing came of this, and I believe the chap was returned to his unit.
Another lad was referred for some strange behaviour - I forget exactly what. I did a standard clinical interview with him, which yielded nothing remarkable. That was until he failed to answer one of my questions. I respected his silence, and asked the question again in another way. Still no response. I asked the next question, but still there was no response. "Do you want to have a break?" I asked him. Still no response.
I looked at him more closely. He had a fixed stare. He was not blinking. He was breathing, but very slowly. I tapped his knee to get his attention - no response. There was 'no one home'. I strode off quickly to see if I could find a doctor. I've had patients spend a whole hour in silence with me before, but not quite as unresponsive as this chap.
The doctors supported my hypothesis that this might be some form of epilepsy, or absences, which required more specific evaluation than we could manage. I arranged for him to be sent down to 1 Mil (Psychiatry), with a request that they decide whether a neurological examination was called for.
I had feedback later from the 1 Mil doctor who received him, Clive Wills. Clive said that I had done the right thing by sending him down, but the problem had been seen as a 'Hysterical Conversion Disorder', which seemed to be centred around some secret which he had, which was so 'boring' when it was revealed that Clive could not remember what the secret had been.
I'm no angel either! I depict some of those around me as being incompetent, but I am as guilty. Through the Dominee, a Major from one of the local black units; 101 BN or similar was referred to us with an alcohol problem. He denied vehemently that he had an alcohol problem. I arranged with a doctor at the sickbay at Ondangwa to take blood tests from him regularly, to monitor the amount of alcohol he was taking in, to produce evidence one way or the other. The major never pitched up for the blood tests. I didn't follow it up. Eventually I had an annoyed Commandant on the phone saying that I should have followed the case up, and if the Major did not co-operate, I should report this to the OC, the Commandant. He was right of course! I think I had tried once or twice to get through, but communications were always such a pain. The end result was that I didn't get through, and I should have tried. I don't think I was ethically prevented from reporting the man's lack of co-operation to the OC. I also make mistakes!
NOT MY PATIENT - BUT COULD HAVE BEEN?
Manfred , a doctor friend, reported on his return from Sector 10, that he had come across a female patient who had been involved in some rather bizarre sexual activities. She had 'belonged' to a very closed group of men, who would have gatherings at which they put her on a slippery table at which they were sitting, and they would then spin her around. The person to whom her legs pointed when she stopped would then do something sexual to her. Then she would be spun again, with the next person to whom her legs pointed then doing something else. I don't remember that Manfred's patient was complaining about this experience.
NON PATIENT-CONTACT PSYCHOLOGY WORK
THE EMERGENCY PLAN : IN THE EVENT OF AN ATTACK
THE COMMUNITY SUPPORT TEAM
I was aware of the psychology service's plan of action following a stand off attack, but as there was no such attack during my border duty, I did not have the opportunity of seeing this plan in action.
Charl was very proud of the co-ordinated plan to follow a 'rev' and was disappointed that I paid very little attention to it in my report. (Only the above paragraph in fact.) As soon as the bombs stopped falling - and Commandant Potgieter left it to our discretion to decide when that was - I was to travel in the Metro (non-armoured) ambulance to the School along with the dentists, where I would co-ordinate activities, and the dentists would apply first aid to the not so seriously injured, or those in shock, who knew to report to the school. I envisaged a rough time of trying to deal with hysterical people en mass. The more seriously injured were to be taken to the emergency room at the sickbay - I imagine that even the most trivially injured people would go straight there - "This may only be a broken finger to you, Doctor, but its bloody serious to me!"
Charl's scheme was to involve the chaplains and social workers - each had an area of Oshakati assigned to them, and following a rev they would then make contact with each of the people in their 'beat', focusing particularly on those who had been injured or had family members killed and those whose houses had been damaged. Those who were showing severe signs of anxiety or shock, or in some other way seemed to be at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be identified, and this information would be reported back at a meeting of the psychologists, chaplains and social workers to be held at a set time and venue, the next day. (e.g. 14H00, AG Complex, the day after the rev.) At this meeting, decisions would be made regarding who would help which person seen to be at risk. (Charl would probably cringe at this simplification of his scheme, but that's the gist, as I remember it).
UNIT 'WELFARE' COMMITTEES
There was a Sector Geestesgesondheidskommittee [Mental health committee], consisting of the mental health professionals and chaplains and representatives of the units which met every second Tuesday at 15H00 at the Sector HQ building. At one of these meetings I attended, the chairman seemed to be suffering from rampant uncontrolled 'petit mal' epilepsy, and he stopped for little 'absences' all the way through the meetings. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
Each unit had monthly meetings of their own Unit Committee, which had a 'Welfare' function. These were attended by the OC, the unit chaplain, and a social worker and/or psychologist. Their function was to discuss and find solutions for specific people with problems in the unit. The main focus seemed to be people with drug problems, although there were occasionally problems reported with alcohol abuse or homosexual incidents. Dagga (Cannabis), the main problem, grew abundantly locally, and was much used and often sold by the local population. Drug users were usually dealt with disciplinarily, which involved reporting them to the police, but they would often be offered 'help' from the Unit Committees.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER PROFESSIONALS
"There is excellent interaction with the two social workers, Mrs. Bouwer and Lt. Berry, who were both very competent and professional. Interaction with the medical doctors was not quite as smooth, as most of the medical personnel in the sector had had minimal exposure to psychiatry and psychology, and often did not have the knowledge concerning medication that would have been useful. It would improve the functioning of the psychology service, Sector 10 if a doctor from a psychiatry department could be stationed at Oshakati. We were always treated professionally and supportively by Cmdt. Jan Potgieter, Officer Commanding Medical Section Sector 10, and Maj. Kevin Holmes, Officer Commanding the Oshakati Sickbay."
- extract from my report on my border duty
There were many chaplains in the operational area. They seemed to be seen as being as essential as doctors, and at the smaller bases, the only two non-army officers were invariably the doctor and the chaplain. In their greater numbers, the chaplains formed a vital supportive element in Charl de Wet's Community Support Team, which would provide the mental health support following a rev.
The individual chaplains were fine, and even Dominee Loki Bouwer, who would tease Charl mercilessly, never gave me a hard time. The chaplains didn't have much psychological awareness, and would refer patients to us with very vague complaints, and expect us to be able to 'cure' people. (A popular misconception!) It could be frustrating how Dominees might consider having had an informal discussion with me when we bumped into each other at the airport as having been a referral, and often it would be difficult to get feedback from them on people whom I had referred to them. I informally reported a `You won't get anywhere unless you go through me first' - vibe coming from the chief chaplain, but I can't remember the details.
In one case, the chaplain of Sector 10, Ds. Bouwer, attempted to refer a patient to Mr. Pieter Spies (a civilian, and not a registered mental health professional) in Pretoria. I only found out about the patient when he came knocking on my office door. The patient could have been assessed by Charl or me. [See; "Mrs. Colonel and the Mole."]
To improve working relationships between the psychologists and chaplains, I wrote a pamphlet detailing our services; what sort of referrals were appropriate for us, and what treatments we could provide. Charl read and approved it, and we handed it over to the chaplain service for them to distribute, and give to chaplains on their arrival in the sector. I wonder if this was at all helpful?
ORIENTATION OF PSYCHOLOGISTS BEFORE THEIR ARRIVAL
On my arrival in Oshakati I found that I could have been better prepared if I known more about what to expect regarding living conditions, and what I should have brought with me. I seemed to have difficulty in getting any coat hangers, and eventually Dirk Cloete took me along to one of the local Owambo supermarkets to get some. From fairly on, I started to write out a list of what I considered would be useful information for my successor, and I had the idea that he could then add to it, and send a copy of this to his successor and so on. I sent the document down to Captain Deon Crafford (One of the Afrikaans Craffords!), who replaced me, about a month before he was due to arrive. I don't know whether he updated it and briefed the next person, but I hope so. We could help each other a great deal in this way.
Every month or so, the Medical HQ would be visited by a national service epidemiologist, a doctor involved in the study of the incidence of disease, to collect the statistics for all the medical and para-medical services in the sector. All this information would then be compiled into a report, to which we would have access.
Charl and I took the keeping of records of the work that we did seriously, and we designed a complicated system of tables indicating what type of people we saw (national servicemen, dependants of permanent force members, civilians), where they came from, and what the presenting problem had been.
One month a new epidemiologist arrived, a Lt. Belfe. Charl was off sick at the time, and so his monthly statistics were not available. Belfe got Commandant Potgieter into a state. I was called into his office, and blasted for not having our stats. ready, and told to get them ready immediately. I got together with Charl on his sickbed, taking his diary along, and together we compiled the monthly stats. We got this done, and I made a photocopy of the final copy for our own records, and gave the original to Lt. Belfe.
A month later, on Lt. Belfe's next visit, I asked to see the statistics which we had gone to so much effort to provide. He showed me the social welfare statistics. I said that those were not our statistics. He then said that he had mixed our psychology statistics in with the social work statistics. I told him that this was not only unacceptable, but also impossible, as the psychologists use different statistical categories from those used by the social workers. Following this, Lieutenant Belfe said that then he 'had probably not understood our statistics, so he had left them out'. I told him that this was unacceptable. He apologised, and asked us how we wanted our statistics displayed. I explained to him how our statistical summary table worked, but I felt that it was self-explanatory.
This was irritating - Charl had been really sick, yet we had busted ourselves to provide comprehensive, accurate information which they had either just lumped in the total number of patients seen with the social workers information, or else they had discarded our information completely. Presenting problems had been classified according to DSM III, which is a medical psychiatric classification system. How could he have not understood them? Or could he just not be bothered?
VISITORS FROM MILITARY PSYCHOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
Somewhere near Voortrekkerhoogte, in Verwoerdburg, a suburb of Pretoria, there is the Military Psychology Institute (MPI). The purpose of this set up has never been clear to me. All the therapeutic psychologists, clinical and counselling, as far as I am aware, become involved in seeing patients, either at hospitals or at large unit sickbays. Some national servicemen who were stationed at MPI lived in the SAMS Officers' club, where I met them. Those that I met seemed to have a wide range of qualifications, from anthropologists to sociologists and people with psychology degrees without clinical training, or industrial psychologists. The industrial psychologists I have no grievances against, but the others called themselves 'psychologists', and were given the army psychologist badge, and would hold forth over the dinner tables about psychological issues, about which it became apparent they knew very little - but they spoke as psychologists, and the army seemed to sanction this. Other stories they told seemed to be of playing pranks on each other and doing very little work of any kind.
In summary then, the people from MPI were regarded by many of the therapeutic psychologists as being unqualified, immature and unproductive, and getting the 'real' psychologists a bad name.
About a week after I arrived at Oshakati, a group of people from MPI arrived to research the need for clinical psychologists in the operational area. (Unqualified people assessing the need for a service which they could not understand.?)
The project seemed to be like a sight-seeing expedition for them. They spent about four days being driven around the main bases of the Sector in a minibus with a driver. I had more respect for their leader, who was an industrial psychologist, than for the other members of the team, some of whom were doing internships. They had all expenses paid for them - when Charl and I took them out for a meal at Driehoek, we paid for what we ate, and they charged their meals to their expense account. Its all right for some!
They had a sultry woman with them, whose main concern, which she pouted over, was that she would not be able to take a little kitten which she had picked up somewhere with her back to the 'States' because of the quarantine restrictions. She seemed to enjoy being the only woman amongst so many men, and played on this.
After having spent about four days on the border, they all phoned home making personal phone calls from the AG Complex, and really seemed to be very put out when they were asked to pay for these calls.
One of the two social functions that Charl and I attended with them was at the Driehoek restaurant. During this time I made serious attempts at conversation with them, and I could not believe how unsuccessful I was.
They were there to assess the need for clinical psychologists in the operational area. As a clinical psychologist stationed in the operational area, I had some views, which I tried to share with the MPI person sitting next to me. "I believe that the cannabis abuse problem is a symptom of long periods of boredom on the border, rather than a problem in itself. There is very little for many of the soldiers stationed on the border to do, and I believe that more attention should be devoted to leisure time utilisation. It occurs to me that these national servicemen are soon to return to the community where they will be faced with tasks such as buying houses, arranging finances and insurance, getting married, and a host of other life tasks. I believe that their free time on the border could be used constructively by some form of continuing education programme. It might also be possible to arrange for videos to be shown to them on different careers, as many of them still have to choose a career when they have completed their national service." (I wrote this up more formally for the report I submitted after my border duty, but the argument was pretty much the same, although I think I probably added that more snooker tables and games and things could be provided.)
The chap to whom I spoke, watched rather than listened, and when I had finished, he said something about; "One should always watch out for the wider ramifications before implementing something of that kind." (He said many long words, but the meaning was 'We are not interested in such suggestions.')
After telling me this, the chap turned away to talk with someone else. Soon after this one or two of the MPI shower started to flick butter at each other on their knives.
The MPI people also had a patronising attitude to their black army driver. He came to Driehoek with us, and ordered a garlic steak. When it arrived, he complained that it was not what he wanted, and pointed to someone else's, saying "I asked for one of those."
Behind his back, one or two of the MPI people discussed this, saying they had wondered whether he had known what he had ordered. I don't suppose they could win, regarding being patronising to their driver - if they had commented when he had made his order - that might have been even more patronising!
And these were the people who were assessing the need for clinical psychologists in the operational area?
OTHER PSYCHOLOGISTS KNOWN TO HAVE SERVED AT SECTOR 10
My post here was previously occupied by Andre Geel, Lance Bloch, both graduates of the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg), as I am, and Francois De Marigne, a graduate of University of Natal (Durban). I know that Martin Broodryk was here before me, and John Lavendis was there before him. Charl de Wet had been there for about 9 months before the start of my duty, and a Major Willie Jooste has also spent some time there, but I'm not certain that he was clinical. Deon Crafford replaced me. I wonder what other psychologists might have also served in the role that I occupied.
Published: 1 July 2000.
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