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Troublesome patients were made tractable with a trip to the nearest state hospital where electroshock therapy was administered – without anesthetic.

The exposure of these grim revelations in Church publications brought an understandable wave of public outrage, both in South Africa and overseas. The United Nations and the World Health Organization investigated and confirmed the atrocities uncovered by CCHR.

However, instead of investigating the horrifying reports and protests that flooded in, the then-apartheid South African government passed a law banning the publication of material or photographs about the psychiatric camps. By so gagging all opposition, the oppressive apartheid regime ensured that no further progress would be made while it was in power. The measure was so effective that when South Africa emerged from the tyranny of apartheid, CCHR found that the legally enforced silence surrounding the camps had made them “invisible” to the new government.

With the fall of apartheid in 1994, CCHR brought the psychiatric camps to the attention of officials in the new Government of National Unity with a submission calling for a public inquiry into psychiatry’s apartheid crimes. In 1995, the Minister of Health ordered a government inquiry to “investigate and report on any malpractices or violation of human rights in psychiatric hospitals.”


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