My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Correctional Services Minister Ngcondo Balfour is quoted in the papers today as saying something so weird that if I did not know any better I would wonder whether he had been smoking some Durban Poison before talking to the media. According to the Business Day:
Last night, Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour said Shaik was in “the final phase of his terminal condition”. Evidence on Shaik’s health was given to the parole board by three medical practitioners, he said.
“The three medical practitioners’ collective submission shows a unanimous conclusion that Mr Shaik is in ‘the final phase of his terminal condition’,” said Balfour. “One even went as far as saying that his condition has reached an irreversible condition. Having studied the contents of the report as submitted to me by the said parole board, I am of the view that the decision they made is correct,” said Balfour.
This does not make sense and seems like a clear and quite absurd contradiction. Which means either that the Minister is really, really, stupid or that he is lying. Maybe both.
Let`s have a look. The Minister claims that the three medical practitioners were unanimous in concluding that Shaik was in the final phases of a terminal illness. This means the three doctors agreed that Shaik is on his death bed and will die in days or weeks.
But then the Minister says one of the doctors ¨even went as far as saying that his condition has reached an irreversible condition¨. So, one doctor thinks that there is nothing that can be done to save Shaik and that his conditions is irreversable. He will therefore die. But the other two doctors were supposed to agree that Shaik is in the final phases of a terminal illness, yet, they do not agree that his condition is irreversable and could therefore not agree that the illness is terminal either?
What am I missing – or am I going mad?
I have yet to hear of a condition which doctors agree has made one terminally (i.e. one WILL die) ill, yet that a majority of the same doctors believe can be reversed. If the condition can be reversed, the illness is not terminal and thus will not lead to the imminent death of the patient.
So this statement by the Minister is, to be kind, an absurdity and an embarrassment. When politicians are caught in such an obvious contradiction, my first suspicion is that the polician is lying through his teeth. My second suspicion is that the politician was forced to lie because someone higher up ordered him to take a bullet for the team.
Only a full disclosure of the evidence will help us to understand whether the Minister was lying and was covering up the illegal acts of the Parole Board when he made this statement or whether the Minister merely ¨misspoke¨ and was just too stupid to understand the reports given to him.
Either way, such a Minister is not worth his salt and should be fired forthwith. I trust the ANC – who claims to believe in the Rule of Law and competent governance – will request the President to relieve this bumbling (or dishonest?) Minister from his duties immediately.
I also trust that the ANC – in order to clear up any suspicion that its President or someone else on his behalf had interfered illegally with the Parole Board process – will immediately call for a full investigation into this deeply suspicious developments that led to Shaik´s release from prison.
If the ANC defends the Parole Board and the Minister, or fails to call for a full disclosure of the facts, we will know that it has something to hide. I am waiting…. But I am not hopeful.