28-year-old Andreas Banetsi Mphunga is a psychology graduate who was practicing from a small office in Mandela Park, in Khayelitsha.
Mphunga was very aware of the urgent need for registered counsellors and psychologists in Khayelitsha and, combined with the high cost of renting, decided to let go of his office and make his clinic mobile and more accessible – so, he bought a combi.
“My medium term goal is to have 10 of these,” says Banetsi.
Mphunga, who received his psychology degree in 2013 from the University of the Western Cape, is registered to open a private clinic. He previously worked from an office in Mandela Park, his home neighbourhood in Khayelitsha. His office was small, about the same size of the interior of a minibus, and Mphunga decided to let go of the space and the rent bills that came with it, to make his clinic mobile and more accessible.
“I know the resources are not there yet, but I don’t need them. I don’t have the fancy office with the fancy recliner chair, I can do that with whatever resources that I’ve got,”
A little over three months ago Banetsi decided he wanted to address the lack of psychology clinics in Cape Town’s townships. It was while working at a youth programme with high school students in Khayelitsha, that he realised a lot of them had no outlets for the varying psychological problems they were going through. “Some of them were expressing problems they’ve had for up to eight years. When they approached their schools for counselling, the response time was anything from two weeks to three months. That’s way too long. Some of these problems needed immediate attention.”
Mphunga bought the combi just four weeks ago, digging into his personal savings to foot the R28,000 bill. An additional R10,000 will be spent on upgrading the interior, tinting the windows to protect his patients’ confidentiality, and on minor mechanical repairs to the windows and air conditioner.
While combis are the staple mode of transport for public transport users across South Africa, Mphunga identified the Caravelle as the perfect mobile psychology clinic because of its popularity among youth in the township, who are often marginalised for seeking treatment at surrounding clinics.
The taxi travels to schools, parks and homes offering free counselling sessions and life skills to people in his neighbourhood.
“A kombi is spacious enough to hold a consultation, so I figured that would be the easiest way to reach as many people as possible.”
The taxi sessions take place at the back of the kombi where Banetsi and his patients sit opposite each other. However, he says, the minibus sessions are only an entry point to formalised counselling sessions in his office in Mandela Park.
“I realised that if I don’t have an office I report to, people won’t take this seriously. So I don’t run the sessions in taxi indefinitely. Just once or twice to break the ice and establish rapport with the patients.”
In the long term, Banetsi envisions having 50 minibuses dotted across the country’s townships. He currently has a funder looking to sponsor his second mobile clinic and hopes this will be the spark that gets the fire going.
“My plan is to have 50 of these across the country, providing counselling to at least 500 kids a month. There’s a clear shortage of psychological treatment across the country’s townships and I hope to address that.”