10 Oct 2006 - approx 5.30 pm -
Lucky L phones me with the news that Witness, my non-existent Gardner has arrived at the house. He has signs of having been badly beaten up, and has some papers from the South African Police Services which seem to need to be completed. He has told LuckyL that he was mugged, beaten and robbed, and needs my assistance tell him to give Witness something to drink, and to tell him to wait for me, as I was just leaving the office.
I arrived home at about 6.30 pm, and found him waiting. His face was badly swollen on one side, and he told me that his ribs and back were also hurting. He related what happened and a lady friend were on their way to a local store to buy some groceries on Sunday at about 4.30 pm. They had to walk about 1 km to get to the store. On the way 3 youngsters (black) stopped them and demanded money. He said he didn't have any, but one of them kicked his legs out of under him, and they proceeded to kick him in the face, back and chest! His lady friend thankfully managed to run away, so possibly sparing herself a brutal rape!
They then searched Witness, and took about R400.00 off him, which was his and her money which he had been carrying.....
He had been to the police to report the incident, and they had given him forms to have filled in at the local hospital after a doctors checkup, so that they could record the injuries.
So, I went inside, got him some supper, then had some supper myself, and off we went to the local government hospital. He has not been there before, so first thing we had to have a file opened for him. He does not have an ID book (see previous ref to Witness), so we managed to get them to accept his date of birth as a reference. He does not have a telephone, so we
gave them mine. He does not have a fixed address, residential or postal, so we gave them mine. He was robbed, and so does not have any money, but they insisted he had to pay a R20.00
registration fee!!! So I paid it.
This was after sitting in the waiting room for over an hour, and there was only one other person in line in front of us. Whilst sitting there, I had time to look around. Now I had been to this hospital before, more than 20 years ago, when it was still a government hospital, but run under the auspices of the previous regime. In those days cleanliness was next to godliness. Sterility was the norm. No broken tiles which could harbour bacteria and germs.
Today it's an African hospital! Flyers, recommendations, internal and external memo's, etc. adorn all the walls. Mostly very old and as such irrelevant. Torn, hanging on reused sticky tape (look it up). Walls are not clean. Broken furniture. Missing ceiling boards.....
Eventually we got the file done, and moved to casualty. Well, apart from the patients waiting around, the facility itself was probably the biggest casualty. If I am involved in an accident, I will rather be taken to my local butchery than to this hospital.
Dirty, not filthy, but unhygenically dirty. More broken furniture. Open doors all down the passageway, mainly cause the locks have been removed / stolen, so it's no use closing them. I left Witness waiting, with instructions to call me when the doctor came. And then I went walkabout. I walked into an operating theatre. Uncontested. No, there was not an operation going on, but I had unlimited access to all the components in the room. The door was wide open, so there was dust everywhere. Not sure if this facility is still in use or not.... I noticed that on the shelving storing things like aprons, gloves and face masks, there was old coffee cups, and an empty colddrink can or two. Discarded sandwich wrappers finished off the colour variations.
Another room housed what looked like a perfectly usable, albeit old, sterilization unit. However, it was obviously not in use, as in front of this unit was stored piles of boxes containing medication, patient files, and stationery. Packed on the floor. The door was not closed. Access was not denied. All along, the walls in these rooms, and the passages were dirty.
I returned to where Witness was waiting. The doctor had arrived, and was going through the patients one by one. Most of the consultation occurred there in the waiting room, in front of the other patients! Mostly they were referrals to either a ward for overnight supervision, or to a specialist (which means they would have to come back the next day, and do more queues), or, for the pregnant ladies, a quick checkup on the bed behind a curtain which was too short to close across the opening, which meant that most times when someone walked past in the passage they had full view of the patient on the bed. Eventually I see he has a word with Witness, and then moves to his desk and fills in the police forms. I watched from the door, and realized that he was doing it wrong. Once he was done, he put the file into the outbox, where it waited for the nurse on duty to look at it, give instruction to the patient, and then send the file back to reception for safekeeping. I approached her and asked her for the file. I took it, looked at the content, and pointed out to her that it was incorrect!
I took it to the doctor, and told him that Witness's injuries extended beyond just the visible facial one's he had noted on the forms. So he went back and took Witness into the half curtained inspection room and redid his checkup. Turns out this doctor is from the Congo, so apart from English, he has no way of communicating with the patients. Witness is Zulu, and speaks both English and Afrikaans, but not well. Anyway, he redid the checkup on my instruction and guidance, and this time filled in the correct details. And based on his second check, he also gave Witness some medication for pain, preventing of infections, and some cream for the laceration on his face.
Done there, we proceeded to the police station. Thankfully he had not gone to the station in town, but to a satellite station near to where he lives. Arriving there we found it empty, except for the 3 police officers on duty. The station was clean, tidy, well kept and maintained. A first for me since 1994. The officers were kind, and helpful. The constable who assisted Witness with his statement / report was also Zulu, so he conducted the interview in Zulu, and translated the facts into English for the report, which I then double checked. He got it spot on.
They confirmed that this morning the file would be allocated to a detective, who would be in touch. I gave my phone number again.... If they call me I'll make sure to get Witness to them asap. He also told them that he knows one of his assailants, and where he lives, so I'm sure we will be moving in on this one soon.
By the time we finished there it was 10pm. I drove Witness to where his lady friend lives, about 5 km down the road from his home, and dropped him off with strict instruction that a) he does not walk home in the dark, he must sleep over, and b) that he be available if the police call me and I need to find him. I told him not to come in on Saturday, as he needs to rest and heal first, but paid him in advance for the day anyway. After all, he was robbed and has no money till next time he comes to work.
All in all, I'm glad I don't need to use government health facilities. I know now where the more efficient police station is. Witness will survive. Hopefully one of his attackers will be arrested, and given half a chance I would get him to give up the names of his accomplices, although I don't think I will be afforded the pleasure.