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?
I attended the meeting in Parlaiment this morning between an Ad Hoc Committee of Parliament and the leaders of the various Chapter 9 Institutions. The Committee has been tasked by Parliament to review these instituions and this morning’s meeting saw the start of his process. I have been asked to act as Constitutional adviser to the Committee. In his speech Kader Asmal explained the approach that will be taken:
It is important to note that the Committee will undertake its work within the boundaries of this constitutional framework. This requires the Commission to proceed with sensitivity and with honest respect for the independence and impartiality of the various institutions under review. At the same time the Committee has a Constitutional oversight duty and cannot afford to be timid or hesitant about the carrying out of this important task. The Committee is of the view that chapter 9 institutions have a pivotal role to play in the strengthening of our democracy. The Committee is also of the view that a non-partisan Ad Hoc committee of Parliament is uniquely positioned to review the work of these institutions.
In his off the cuff remarks he was a bit less polite, referring to the reports churned out by some of these institutions at a cost of more than half a million Rand and then the report is filled with pictures of the staff. A Commissioner from the Commission for Gender Equality – which have been beset with problems and have not really gained much credibility over the years – complianed that the Commission was not given enough money to do its work properly. While the commisioner said this I was wondering how many of the members of the Committee had a cynical moment and wondered whether more money would really fix the problem.BACK TO TOP