They went looking for help to kick their drug habit – but two troubled young men allege they were savagely beaten and tortured by a Uitenhage farmer who was arrested this week.
Anthony Dovey, 52, appeared in court on Tuesday after assault charges were laid against him by the two former cocaine addicts who worked on his farm Wilge rivier, an unofficial drug rehabilitation centre for young men between Uitenhage and Kirkwood.
The men allege they were repeatedly tied up or handcuffed inside a barn and beaten with cattle whips, sjamboks, planks and cricket bats but desperate and terrified, with nowhere else to go, allowed the abuse to continue until it got so bad they summoned the courage to speak out and took photographs to back up their claims.
Recovering addicts Adrian Pizani, 26, and Michael Cusdin, 24, had gone to Dovey’s farm hoping to kick their habit and better their lives, but say they never expected Dovey’s methods of rehabilitation to consist of what they described as “torture sessions”.
Dovey’s legal representative, well-known criminal defence attorney Alwyn Griebenow, has however denied the claims, saying the complainants were attempting to blackmail his client.
Cusdin told Weekend Post how he left the South African Navy after becoming addicted to drugs. He knew of Wilge rivier through a friend.
He contacted Dovey who bought him a bus ticket from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and arrived at the farm on September 23 2013.
“At first Tony [Dovey] seemed nice. He made me work on the farm, working with sheep during the day and cooking at night.
“He made me feel welcome and like a friend. But I was there for a week when he beat me for the first time,” said Cusdin.
“He took me to a barn for what he called a torture session. I was handcuffed with my arms above my head and he started beating me with a cattle whip.
“He explained it was for all the bad things I did before I came to his farm.”
More beatings followed, and while he considered going to the police more than once, he had nowhere else to go.
“I could have gone to the police, showed them the marks and laid charges. But then I had to return, and I could not imagine what he would do to me then.”
Cusdin was at the farm for more than a year, and in that time he said eight other young men arrived. Some only stayed a week before running away, while others had nowhere else to go.
In February last year Pizani came to the farm after a run-in with the law in Gauteng over his drug addiction. He and Cusdin became friends after they were made to work in the kitchen together.
“I was there for about a month before he hit me – one of his whipping sessions. I was handcuffed to a cattle kraal and lashed with a leather whip. He said it was for drugs I had used before I came to the farm,” Pizani said.
Pizani spent eight months on the farm and said he was beaten every time he acted “out of line”. He was stripped to his underwear with his hands handcuffed above his head during beatings and once was stripped completely naked before being whipped.
Both Cusdin and Pizani alleged Dovey would repeatedly say “suffer” while beating them, and he appeared to take pleasure in the beatings.
They said accommodation was free, they received some “pocket money” and they were allowed to leave the farm on weekends, but only once their bruises had healed.
Although Pizani tried to explain the situation to his family, he said they did not seem to understand how severely they were being beaten.
“We lived in fear. You were always watching your back because you never knew when the next beating would come. Even when Tony was nice, we were sh*t scared,” said Cusdin.
He added Dovey always made sure they did not take pictures of their bruises but when they finally decided they had had enough, they took pictures with their cellphones and sent them to friends in Gauteng.
Pizani said his last beating was the worst and that was when he decided to leave and asked Cusdin to take the pictures.
“At first we were unsure about laying charges. We were enjoying our freedom and we were afraid for the other guys still on the farm. However, we later decided to speak up because we did not want this place to keep operating,” said Cusdin.
Police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Gerda Swart said Dovey was under investigation for assault among other charges. He was arrested on Monday and appeared in the Uitenhage Magistrate’s Court the following day where he was released on warning. He is due back in court in April.
Griebenow said: “Dovey has helped children and young people with drug problems for the last ten years.
“He started the programme when friends approached him to help their kids kick the habit. He does not advertise and every new guest comes to him through word of mouth.”
Griebenow said there had never been any other complaints or charges brought against Dovey.
“We are in possession of evidence that proves the complainants have a hidden agenda and are trying to blackmail Dovey. We look forward to stating our case in court.”
Port Elizabeth psychologist Dr Dolf Müller said Pizani and Cusdin’s claims could be seen in two ways: young men who found a home among other addicts despite the abuse, or two troubled minds “crying wolf” after things did not go their way.
– Riaan Marais