Family feud closes Mandela Park rehab

Ilisolakhe Rehabilitation Centre had about 100 in-patients escape when a dispute erupted over its management following the death of the centre's founder, Shaheed Silwana. Photo by Asive Mabula

The death of the rehab centre’s founder broke open divisions between his two wives over how the unregistered rehab centre will continue as an organisation.

The functionality of Ilisolakhe Rehabilitation Centre has been left in limbo because of a family feud that ensued after the death of the rehab’s founder, Shaheed Silwana. Silwana, who died on June 4, was a community leader under the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) and often had parents reach out to him for help with their children.

Videos of patients breaking out and escaping from Ilisolakhe emerged on social media on June 9. According to City Vision, the rehab centre had more than 300 patients at the time. The patients who were between 18 and 35 years of age.

“We opened Ilisolakhe in November of 2021. My husband and I used to get reports from the elderly in the community, that they are being mistreated by their children who abuse substances,” said Fateema Diko, Silwana’s second wife. “When my husband fell sick, his first wife sidelined me whereas I am the manager of the centre. It was never about wanting to manage the rehab; they are directly fighting me and disrespecting me,” said Diko. As of the 4th of July, she will be disassociated from the rehab facility.

The rehab, according to her, is registered under her name as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and used various methods to rehabilitate patients. “We used Bible study classes, motivational talks and the social workers we had were freelancers and not from social development, because they did not fund us,” explained Diko.

The provincial department of social development says the rehab should not have been operating as a treatment facility. “It is not registered to operate as a treatment facility, as required by the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act […] The registration to operate a treatment facility is separate to regular NPO registration, issued by National DSD,” said Monique Mortlock-Malgas, spokesperson for MEC Sharna Fernandez via email correspondence.

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A family feud brought the services of Ilisolakhe Rehabilitation Centre to a halt after the death of founder, Shaheed Silwana.

An emergency meeting of the centre’s board was called on June 9 to try rescue the situation. “I was present at the meeting, and we tried to bring stability to the operation of the centre and to the infighting of the family, because we wanted to see the rehab continue to restore addicts,” said Velile Yayi, court manager at Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court. The rehabilitation centre and the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court had a relationship, formed in 2022 when addicts went to clean holding cells and toilets on Mandela Day. “As a board member of the rehab at the time, I wanted to expose them to what it could be like behind bars and the effects of having a criminal record,” said Yayi. He advised on strategic development on the reintegration of addicts into society and making them employable as well, but has resigned as a board member saying he does not want to get involved in family feuds.

“The rehab is registered as an NPO, but because it is not funded by [the department of] social development, it is not viewed as a rehab,” said Yayi responding to a question on the legality of the centre. As a court manager, Yayi added that he is an activist in his own right and is passionate about the restoration of substance abusers.

Ward 97 councillor, Mthwalo ‘Ryder’ Mkutswana, was also present at the meeting and had not responded to our questions by the time of publication.

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