Most of the patients I saw were young men, the vast majority of whom were national servicemen. I did see some wives and children who were dependants of Permanent Force members. As I have mentioned elsewhere, although most medical services were provided by national servicemen, these services were free to dependants of well paid Permanent Force members, while the dependants of national servicemen (national servicemen) who only earning a token sum, were not entitled to free medical services.


My chosen career is so absorbing that I often find other people not being able to understand the world that I venture into professionally. I have worked with three cases where a wife with a 'dependant' personality left school at about standard seven (at their first opportunity) and then married to someone in the Permanent Force who is fairly psychopathic, and beats her up regularly. The woman would like to leave her husband, but if she did that, she would be without a source of income to feed and clothe herself, (unqualified so unlikely to get a job) and she is sure that hubby would not pay maintenance for the children - and there are always a couple of them.

But a more important reason why she stays and endures the abuse - and tells me all about it - is the potentially real fear of her husband seeking her out and killing her, the children and himself. Two of the fathers in question have repeatedly threatened to kill the whole family and have held guns to their wives heads. They have frequently chased their wives around the house or out of it with weapons, threatening to shoot them.

There's not very much we can do in such cases - we can't even get the children out of such houses. Social Workers are often seen as being the 'bad guys' who take children away from their oh-so-loving parents, but the law isn't strong enough to help us to take kids out for their own protection.


One female patient presented late on a Friday afternoon, tearful and wanting to speak to someone. Her husband seems to keep her in double bind situations all the time. The latest is that he is threatening to move their oldest daughter in with his parents (2.5 hours drive from Pretoria) unless his wife got another part-time job. This deadline passed without her having secured a job, and hence the crisis.

The husband of another lady I saw, faced possible transfer to 'Fort Doppies' (I never did find out where this was!) and she refused to move there. She felt that part of her problem was that she failed to accept her lot as the wife of a soldier. Her husband was continually away on courses, leaving her as the single parent of four manipulative young sons. She was unhappy with the army for the seemingly unpredictable way in which her husband would be taken away from her.

Another army wife was referred with post-natal depression and concern that her husband is taking a greater interest in other women. There were also some communication difficulties. They expected to move to a house in Voortrekkerhoogte and then she has realistic plans of developing a social network through karate and aerobics.

She has nightmares just before waking up of seeing a red devil's face and lightning, which a teacher once told her was the devil seeking out his children to punish them. She has spoken to their Pastor about this and he has made her somewhat sceptical of our ability to help her. She quoted her Pastor's scepticism about her need for 'medification' (sic). She is still very aware of other women wearing seductive clothing.

"I discussed the results of the psychometrics which seem to fit in. Parents were emotionally distant and prohibitive - not fulfilling her emotional needs. She achieved in other fields to prove her worth, but this blocked off her emotional needs. Now she is achieving by being the ideal mother. She is emotionally blocking her husband out because she fears that he will betray her as he moves into her sensitive emotional intimate areas and she projects her fear of betrayal on to him."[I impress myself!]

"Discussed treatment focussing on building a positive self concept. She feels that her husband did not choose her from all the available women as they were both young and inexperienced. She feels that they have changed in the city, but he will finish his contract with the army next year after which they will return to Bloemfontein or Virginia where their relatives are."

I regret that I did not ask more about a patient or family I heard a little about in the tearoom. One neurotic wife was believed to be the victim of her husband's attempts to 'drive her mad'. He would apparently do this quite deliberately, like arguing with her that 'White was black, and black was white', but he would also hide things, and rearrange furniture when she was out of the room. I think the fact that this was discussed meant that his plan had been rumbled, and hopefully the wife's suffering was alleviated.


Military vehicles all have registration plates beginning with the letter 'R', and where called 'R-vehicles'. Children of Permanent Force members' children were sometimes called 'R-kids'.

One R-kid I saw, a very neurotic fifteen year old boy, made a very dramatic suicide attempt, in which he claimed to have swallowed some pins. I think these showed up on the X-rays, but I don't know how one would go about swallowing pins. He spend a couple of days on Ward 24, where he had a side room because of his age. Marius had a father-son chat with him, pointing out the social consequences of his actions, and suggesting that the other kids at school might tease him with the chant; "Johnny swallows pins, Johnny swallows pins."

I saw the daughter of a Colonel who wanted to cast off her Afrikaans identity and go and live in the United States. This must have been quite a shock for her presumably conservative Afrikaans parents. I saw her late in the 1986, and was not able to continue to work with her when I joined the Psychiatric Consultation Team.

I saw a seventeen year old girl who used hysterical episodes which kept her mother under control. She had 'about two neurons in her head'.

"I've got a child patient at the moment - a retarded 15 year old who passes easily for an 8 year old -nice little boy, apart from all these problems, and his whole family's very screwed up - I had his older brother as a patient earlier in the year - he used to become a schizophrenic every time he smoked dagga (cannabis) which he used to do quite regularly. Apart from [having learning difficulties] he had great emotional needs, and I can help him with those!"

I saw a very pleasant young teenage girl, who was English speaking, and a Girl Guide. She was referred because she would scratch herself until she bled, and she would also pick at the scabs that formed over the wounds. I was very intrigued at the possibility of some deep underlying cause, but the practical suggestions, of wearing gloves at the time when she was most prone to scratch herself seemed to sort the problem out. She said she was getting better, and did not want another appointment. Pity!


{Identities have been changed}

AUTHOR'S NOTE 1997: This all happened more than 10 years ago, and systems have since been put in place so that the uncertainty about how to proceed would not occur today. I was an intern when I started to become involved with this lad. The dilemma we has was to gather evidence - we could not just take the boy's word for it, or we could have been sued by the father, while at the same time it might be possible that the father could kill his son or his whole family, which was not an unknown occurrence.

An NCO, who had settled at a low rank, was referred to the Psychiatry Department with a problem of alcohol abuse and deterioration of his functioning in his work situation, as well as reports that he overreacted to his son's mischievousness to the extent that he beat him black and blue. The father believed that the boy is not his own son, and that his wife was cheating on him when the boy was conceived, and he took his anger out on the boy because of this.

I think it was Annette V. who suggested at the psychiatric panel that I should see the son to give him emotional support, and maybe to find ways for him to avoid getting into trouble with his father.

I met the boy, Cobie, and he was a very pleasant kid of ten years old. I was expecting that he would be cowed and frightened, as abused children often are, and that I would have to tread very carefully before letting him know that I knew something of what the situation really was like at home.

A question we routinely ask of kids when we first see them, is how they understand what has led up to them being referred to us. Cobie was in no doubt as to the reason. "Its because my father beats me up," he told me quite confidently. So I didn't have to tread all that cautiously anymore.

He's a great little kid, and I can have very pleasant conversations with him - sometimes the highlight of the day! He's made a hit with everyone in our department who have met him. I walked in to fetch him from the secretary's office the other day to find him happily sitting on the lap of one of our clerks.

At first the mere fact that his son was being seen by someone made the father change his habits, and he told Cobie that he would stop using corporal punishment, and would keep him confined to the house and garden instead. Cobie was much happier with this arrangement. Only two weeks later, Cobie's father was hitting him again, including hitting him in the face. We seemed to be back to square one!

Cobie had complained of eye trouble. We arranged an appointment for him with the oculist, and his father was supposed to take him. Cobie's father sent him on his own, and the youngster got lost in the complicated hospital. He was only ten. We arranged another appointment, and got one of our clerks to take him.

Then things took a different turn. Mrs. Vogel, the social worker from the father's base came to tell me that Cobie's mother told her that she suspected sexual activity between her husband and Cobie. The story was that Cobie's father had been working on the car until late, and demanded that Cobie help him. Cobie's mother had gone to bed - indicating how late it was. She was aware of them finishing and returning to the house, where they stayed in the lounge. She went to investigate and had found both of them in 'a state of undress'. The father explained that they had been told at work that they should be involved in their children's sex education, and this is what he was doing. Cobie's mother was not convinced, and reported it to Mrs. Vogel.

This was back in 1986 when the idea of widespread child sexual abuse was still a relatively new concept. I wasn't sure how to manage it, so sought guidance from people more knowledgeable and experienced than I was. Most of those I asked didn't know what our legal position was, and referred me on to ask other people. All of this I documented in case there were legal ramifications.

I arranged with Mrs. Vogel to get written permission from Cobie's mother to gain information about the alleged incidents and to discuss these with a Law officer. I spoke to Cobie's mother over the phone to tell her that we need her permission to do this. ("I am aware that cases of suspected child abuse must be reported to the District Surgeon but I am still trying to ascertain at what stage this should happen.")

I arranged an interview with Cobie's father. He was against coming in and denied any problems at home or at work. He said that he was "not unreasonable with the child and that the child is getting a softer upbringing than he had". He says that he knows what he is doing when he canes Cobie because he used to cane either for the Prison Service or for the Police.

"He makes out that he has a good relationship with his son, and that his present severity is in the long term interests of his son, as he would not always be around to provide 'guidance'. I was not confrontational with father as I believe he would deny and possibly abuse the family more for my having done that. I do not believe that any therapeutic intervention is possible with [Cobie's father]."

"Cobie arrived for appointment on the same day I saw his father. While waiting he told clerk Johann J. that they did not have food in the house and that he often goes to school hungry. I saw father earlier today who said that he had beaten Cobie on Monday [two days before the interview]. I asked Dr. Manfred B. to examine Cobie to see if excessive violence had been used. Manfred reported a bruise on his buttocks but no damage to ribs or head."

I have been in the situation where a child patient has complained to me of being severely beaten by his father. How was I to handle this situation? Psychologists aren't supposed to examine children for bruises. I followed the correct procedure which involved getting the child to wait while I found a doctor who was available, explained the situation to the doctor, asked him if he would examine the child, brought the boy in, introduced him to the doctor, who spoke to him for a little while before asking him to take down his pants a little way, which was embarrassing for all three of us - what was to be seen was three quarters of a ten year old boy's bum showing no severe bruising. I wonder whether following the procedures was worth it? I mean, anyone can distinguish bruises from non-bruises.

Individual interview with Cobie in which I asked him about sexual harassment from father. The information he told me follows: Father has made sexual advances to Cobie over the last several years. These occur mainly in the morning after mother has left for work and before Cobie goes to school.

Father frequently tries to fondle Cobie, but most extreme involvement was one incident of fellatio sometime last year, which was interrupted when Cobie's mother walked into the room. Father's advanced occur sometimes after alcohol abuse. Father's most recent sexual approach occurred [two days before the interview, on the day in which the reported beating took place]."

"Cobie's older sister is aware of what happens and covers for Cobie: when father makes an advance, Cobie coughs as a signal, and then his sister walks into the room to distract father, and Cobie rides off to school. [Brave sister!]"

"Cobie reports that his father has also been sexually active with his sister. He says that father has also had a sexual relationship with Cobie's [male] cousin who is in standard seven [about fourteen years old]. Cobie believes that his sister and his cousin have been paid by his father for sexual favours. Sometimes his father coerces him into participation in sexual acts with threats of violence, but at other times Cobie can 'slap his hands down and ride to school'."

"Cobie described a sense of relief at having told of what he had been experiencing in spite of the embarrassment at the questions asked. He says that his father's advances interfere with his ability to concentrate at school. He says also that he would prefer to live away from his father. He says that an uncle or equivalent has asked him if his father does 'ugly things' with him and has said that Cobie is welcome to go and stay with them."

The following day, I spent some time phoning around to try to ascertain what our legal position was, including phoning senior people at the university at which I trained, but there was very little concrete advice given, except that I was told that I did not have to inform the District Surgeon at that time. In consultation with Pieter G. and Dolf O. we decided to hold a case conference with Mrs. Vogel (Social Worker) and the Hospital's Law Officer to determine whether Cobie could be found to be a 'child in need of care'.

6-11-86 Yesterday I phoned Mr. C. B. and Prof. G. F. at the University of Natal for guidance for guidance on the legal aspects of the new developments on Cobie's case. Prof. F. informed me that it is not my responsibility to contact the District Surgeon and this responsibility rests with the Social Worker involved, but whether she needs to contact him depends on whether the new childrens' act has been instituted. Also contacted Prof. R. at Medunsa who tried to refer me to Cmdt. P. who is away for the next ten days. He also said that it is not necessary to contact the district surgeon at this stage. Supervision with Capt. G., we decided to ask the social worker to investigate whether or not Cobie can be found to be a Child in need of care. Confirmed with Major Dolf O. who prefers to hold a gathering of the three of us and the social worker to case conference the case"

{Date} Interdisciplinary case conference to discuss case management. Also attending was Lt. Ted G. - law officer. Lt. G. informed us that it is very difficult to prove a case of indecent assault. The father has a better chance of suing us for defamation of character than we have of removing the child.

We are concerned at the possible reprisals that the father will make against his family when he knows what we have been told. Mrs. Vogel says [Cobie's mother] intends moving in with her parents at the end of the school year.

Action Plan:

(1) Try to get [Cobie's father] transferred away from Pretoria as soon as possible to get some breathing space. (This was effectively managed, and he was sent to the Border for three months - he had been scheduled to go anyway, but this had repeatedly been deferred because of the 'family problems'.)

(2) Mother to be encouraged to divorce father.

(3) Mother to see Lt. G. for him to explain the legal situation.

(4) Cobie to be followed up by myself and full psychometrics to be done."

I saw Cobie again a week later at which he said that he thought that his father suspects that we know what has happened because he asked Cobie and Cobie's mother who told us. Cobie felt that his father would now leave him alone because too many people knew what was going on. I did some psychological tests with Cobie, which indicated that Cobie might prefer to be a girl, which might be seen as a gender identification problem. (I wonder if his reasoning that if he was a girl, he would not be beaten, because he reported that his father sexually abused his sister as well.) Apart from that he seemed to be a well adjusted lad.

I felt very sorry for young Cobie. He was ten years old, and used to being beaten and molested by his father, with his mother for the most part being helpless to protect him, and the professionals not being able to do much more. That was his experience of life!

Things went well for Cobie for a while after that. He moved to stay with his grandparents, from where it was possible for him to attend the same school, so his non-family life was not disrupted. His father disappeared off to Rundu for three months. The year ended, and I moved to the Psychiatric Consultation Unit.

BUT, about a year later, Mrs. Vogel brought Cobie back to see me. The grand parents reported that Cobie had claimed that his father had recently subjected him to anal intercourse ('from behind ...') Apparently Cobie was forced into this when his father had threatened to throw him out of a speeding car. Cobie didn't repeat these allegations to me:

1987-11-02 "I obtained the details - Cobie's father attempted to get Cobie to perform fellatio on him, was unsuccessful and then fondled him. Cobie denies that there was more contact than this started to follow defusing procedures, but Cobie seemed to have insight into what happened, and he showed no emotional instability. He expressed fear as to how his father would react when his father finds out that Cobie has reported him. I will be seeing Cobie and family for family therapy with Dr. Ida J.."

Dr. Ida J. was a psychiatrist with a particular interest in working with children. I was the first to be involved with Cobie, and I was happy for her to effectively take over, but somehow we lost control of the case when we decided to try a family therapy approach.

The psychology department had a self-styled expert in family therapy, Captain Zaan E.. She had what I thought was a rather naive view of Family Therapy; that it could cure everything but; "I don't know what we'll do, but have great faith, and rave about the services we offer." She might have been more inspiring if she had taken herself into the lion's den, but no, she would supervise and provide guidance from behind the safety of a one way mirror - a common practise in some kinds of family therapy.

And there, in the lion's den, Ida and I found ourselves. One of the instructions we received from the 'supervisors' was "Tell the father you suspect that he is sexually abusing the boy" - we were not able to do that. The closest we could get was to assert that ' Cobie had been (anonymously) sexually abused'.

Cobie's father arrived for one session drunk. They used the discussion to 'explore his feelings about alcoholism'. I wasn't at that session, but if I had been, I would have advocated sending him on his way and letting him come back for another appointment when he was sober.

I lost touch with this case when I was transferred to Natal Command. Cobie will be eighteen now (1997) at the time I write. I'd like to know how he's getting on.

There was much amusement when the story got around that some NCO had reported to casualty having 'lost' a vibrator in his rectum. Apparently he was heterosexual, and married with kids, but this was just a part of their lovemaking. This was a source of much mirth, with comments about 'Did he only complain when the batteries ran down?' The moral of the story seemed to be that if you are going to do that sort of things, only use vibrators that plug into the mains, so that you have something to haul it out by afterwards.


Patients who had IQs of below 75 were medically discharged from the SADF - it was believed that they would be more trouble than they were worth if kept in the army, as they were unlikely to be capable of adhering to military discipline, and could be destructive or dangerous.

Someone with an IQ between 75 and 80 might be discharged if they had a history of behaviour or other problems, but if they did not, they were likely to be sent to '1 Construction Regiment' at Marievale, where they could defend the country from sheltered workshops.

Youngsters who had attended special schools would often be assessed by an army psychologist to decide who was capable of completing national service of some kind. I was keen to do such assessments, but went to the Border instead. Some special school principals, usually Afrikaans speaking, motivated either by patriotism or a desire for their lads to lead lives as normal as possible, with the usual responsibilities, pushed for many youngsters without the necessary mental abilities to be called up. It was important to try and weed them out as soon as possible, in their interests as well as in the interests of the SADF.

Bruce Vorster (School friend) tells an amusing story of an administrative blunder, which was inevitable. The Armoured Car units were called Special Service Battalions (1 and 2). Some conscripts were identified as coming from special schools. So logically, 'send the people from Special Schools to the Special Services Battalions!' Bruce says this happened, and there was mass destruction before the error was detected and rectified.

A psychiatrist took a new intake patient with a suspected low IQ to Annette's office where she had agreed to do an IQ test on him. Larry G., the psychiatrist, knocked on her door, and hearing no response, he opened the door and looked around the room, but she was not there. "Wait here," he told the recruit, and set off to look for her.

He came back empty handed a few minutes later. "Has she come back yet?" He asked the recruit.

"Just hang on," said the soldier. "I'll check. He opened the door, and peered around inside the room. "No, she isn't back yet."

"Don't worry about the test," Larry told Annette when she arrived.

"Major O. asked me to see Jerry to explain a G5 to him and to help him to grasp what the ramifications are."

I met a very dumb patient who disliked sport at school, so he threw bricks at his feet until they were broken, and then damaged his legs further by beating them with an iron bar. He refused to participate in my patient running group.

1 Construction Regiment, Marievale, put their recruits through some form of basic training, where they would mess them around a bit. One youngster found this very distressing, and decided to take any opportunity to get out of the camp. For some strange reason, a selection team arrived at Marievale to process applications of volunteers who wanted to join the State President's Guard - one of the prestige units. Curiouser and curiouser; he was accepted, and was soon signalling distress at the far more severe basics he found himself doing with the State President's Guards.

We saw such a large number of youngsters who had dropped out of school that Commandant P. once felt that he had to remind us that the fact that a person had actually completed school (matric) did not indicate that they were of 'superior intelligence.'

The army had a Corps of what were called 'Pioneers', which was a form of sheltered employment for adults who were 'educationally subnormal'. They would often have roles in maintenance and gardening, in which they were fairly safe because they had to 'supervise' black workers, many of them convicts, who were probably much more capable than the Pioneers who were supervising. We would despair when a pioneer was referred to us, as they often seemed to have alcohol problems. A problem only when they got into trouble for it.


This unfortunately phrased label refers to what used to be called 'Psychopathy' caused problems when interpreted by non-psychiatrically minded people, who might be excused for thinking that "'Anti-social' means that he doesn't like to go to parties."

'Psychopaths' are traditionally seen as having 'no conscience', of selfishly acting in their own short-term interests with no regard to the welfare of others, or even the longer term consequences for themselves.

Prognosis with Anti-Social, and other Personality Disorders, is poor, though there is the suggestion that psychopaths actually 'burn themselves out' in middle age.

I saw a dog handler who presented with some symptoms of schizophrenia, who reported that his father had been a schizophrenic. He said that he was worried about the habit he was developing of 'hanging his dog up' and watching it suffer while he was doing guard duty, and sundry other canine abuse.

Fred, the vet, and noted dog lover, offered to shoot this patient for me if I gave him the bed number, which would save me the problem of having to test the patient and possibly spend many hours of therapy with him.

At a routine panel it was decided that he was trying to get out of guard duty, and that he was copying his fathers symptoms, but not presenting them very convincingly. He was returned to his unit, with a letter to his Officer Commanding suggesting that his canine abuse be investigated and that he be charged if anything was found.

"See if they can arrange for him to do his guard duty with a crocodile," Larry suggested in his slow drawl.

Commandant Potgieter observed how often people with Anti-Social Personality Disorders, or strong traits thereof often reported vicious cruelty to cats, much more so than to other animals. We discussed that this might be due to cats' apparent independence.

One psychopath we saw recounted with relish catching cats, and swinging them around by their tails and battering their brains out against trees. He said he buried the cats he killed under trees. "And the trees grew very well!" he concluded with a self-satisfied smile. How much of this was said to impress?

This particular patient spent some days on the ward being evaluated. At this time Student Nursing Jonathan Bosch (See 'SAMSCLUB') was doing a training placement on Ward 24. The Nursing Sister in charge of the ward at the time was Karen F., and she brought her pet kitten, 'Rifleman F.!' to the ward with her each day.

The psychopath was 'eyeing the cat out', and he told Jonno that he would like to kill the cat. "What cat?" Jonno asked him innocently, as he pushed the little kitten up the leg of his trousers.


"Patient referred by Dr. Clive Wills for evaluation for therapy. He presented as sullen and aggressive, threatening to kill anyone who attempts to send him back to DB. Sees the army as the problem and not himself. Strong anti-social traits. Poor prognosis for therapy - will not follow up."


Psychotic conditions, which include schizophrenia, involve people experiencing hallucinations, like hearing voices, or delusions; false ideas about themselves. The 'split personality' of schizophrenia is not a multiple personality, as is commonly believed, but refers to a split between the person and reality.

One patient believed that everything that happened to him was a symbolic message which was telling him something. He believed that a fly-past of Mirage jets was organised specially to let him know that everyone else at the base knew that he was homosexual. As the mirages flew past they "wagged their tails".

He believed that he was locked into a symbolic conflict with a particular officer, and that the way in which the officer left a garden hose also signified to him that the officer knew that he was gay.

Another patient had a 'happy-clappy' priest come and visit him, and this man criticised what was being done for the lad. The boy was a pain - he would do things like stand outside my office and scream at the top of his voice - making therapy with other patients difficult!

The lad was eventually discharged from the army, and went to a state psychiatric hospital for quite a while. After the minister had left him, this patient was seen to go up to a total stranger, wrap his army around him and proclaim; "God bless you, my china!"

Psychotic patients can produce some very interesting ideas, which sound funny as the stories are reported. One is reported as having said "I have France in this bottle and I will destroy you all!", while another informed us that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the unfortunate result of a spelling error on the label of a can of soup.

We had to assess one chap, to decide whether he was developing schizophrenia, or whether he was just faking. He seemed to have a business organising promotions, with his name always associated with the company 'Purple Haze Promotions'. Did it exist, apart from in his imagination? The name meant nothing to me, but sounded intriguing. Marius, ever full of surprises, identified it as a Jimi Hendricks song, and explained that he was a great Hendricks fan.

Another patient, about whom I wish I could remember more details, was referred own after showing bizarre behaviour. From the geography suggested, he must have been at Rundu. I think he armed himself, found a boat and rowed himself over the river to Angola, walked around for a while, and then returned, and started a conversation with a flag pole. The fact that he was armed while he did this was a source of concern, and several marksmen apparently had him in their sights when he was disarmed, and bundled down to 1 Mil.


Once we had two psychotic women on the female psychiatric ward. One was about twenty, having her first pre-natal psychosis, after recovering from her post-natal depression earlier this year. She was a little better one day, and she offered me some of the 'fridge cake' she had made. I accepted because it would be a therapeutic gesture to her, but I wondered what she had put in it? It tasted okay. The poor girl was in the ward for a long time, and I think she was eventually transferred to one of the State Psychiatric Hospitals. She had a very poor prognosis, and a child!

The other was about fifty, with her 'cerebral cortex well on the way to oblivion' - with a thought disorder. She would stop people randomly in the passage and show them the bruises her husband gave her last time that he beat her up, and in the same sentence go on to tell them what he (her husband) did during the Second World War. This old 'duck' would wander around the ward - and the hospital when she had the chance - and go around blessing people.

She was flapping her arms as she flew down the corridor, and she passed me. I was dramatising my experience of working with a boss who advocates never making decisions and always passing the buck; I was bashing my head against the wall, to impress one of the other psychologists.

"Don't do that," she advised me kindly. "You'll hurt yourself!" And with that, she turned and flapped off down the corridor.

Shortcuts to Chapter Twelve, the `1 Mil' Table of Contents or the Sentinel Projects Home Page.