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?
The release of Schabir Shaik on medical parole is an outrage. Either that or I feel very sorry for him and his family because he is about to die a ¨consolatory and dignified death¨.
It might well be true that Shaik is ill and that he is not faking his illness (but who knows, during his trial he turned out to be a liar and a fraud, so I will not be surprised if he makes a Lazarus-like recovery in the weeks the come – bring on the cigars!), but the law is clear: unless a prisoner is terminally ill, he is not entitled to be released on medical parole.
Section 79 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 states that “any person serving any sentence in a prison and who, based on the written evidence of the medical practitioner treating that person, is diagnosed as being in the final phase of any terminal disease or condition” may be put on parole so that they may “die a consolatory and dignified death”.
So, either Shaik is going to die any day, or the Parole Board broke the law in releasing him and are no better than those correctional services officers taking a bribe to facilitate the escape of prisoners. No, the Board is worse, because it did its work in the open – in a brazen fashion – as if the law does not apply to it and the powerful prisoner it has decided to free on no legal basis whatsoever.
Why would the Parole Board break the law and act illegally? Well, Shaik is a friend of the next President of South Africa; he is the man who gave that President millions of Rand and then got that man to do some serious favours for him to advance his business career. And if one has such important friends, why should the law stand in the way of a release? After all, what the President wants the President gets, no?
It seems the ANC cronies on the Parole Board is tough on crime if those who commit the crime are not ANC members or friends of the President of the ANC. Otherwise, they get a free ride. Join the ANC if you are a criminal and you will hardly have to wrorry about the consequences – even a 15 year sentence becomes a two year stay in a luxury hospital.
This kind of behaviour is utterly outrageous. It shows a contempt for the law that is so breathtaking and disgusting that words fail me. (Either that or the members of the Parole Board cannot read and write.)
Why would the Parole Board illegally release Shaik? Well, because they know they will get away with it and they know that powerful people in the ANC want it to happen. One law for them, and no law for ¨us¨. This kind of attitude is highly dangerous for any society and for any democracy. It undermines respect for the law and creates a cowboy society in which who you know and how much you earn decide your fate.
And when the rules are not followed by the powerful, why will the powerless follow the rules? This leads to a complete breakdown of rules and respect for rules and a kind of crony society in which respect for rules only gets you into trouble.
In the long run such a society will make many people very unhappy because only a select few can know the right people, only a select few can get the contracts and can know the President of the ANC and can get the rules broken for them. People of principle, poor people, people who have no contacts will be forgotten in such a society and they WILL suffer.
This is why corruption and a lack of respect for the law really matters to ALL South Africans – not only to us in the chattering classes. Corruption potentially eats away at our humanity and corrupts our souls while it also destroys the efficiency of the state – a state on which poor people rely to make their lives better.
For the sake of all South Africans, rich and poor and black and white, I can only hope – maybe even pray – that Shaik is about to die a ¨consolatory and dignified death¨. Otherwise we are in for some rough times with the crooks in charge.BACK TO TOP