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?
Xolela Mangcu has written a scathing column in today’s Business Day asking: how did a once proud freedom movement become a party of death? Who, Mangcu wants to know, are those “dark forces” or the “third force” or the “anti-revolutionaries” that will have to be killed. Then he continues:
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Let us then move on to consider the method of death. Will Vavi, Malema and their gang of warriors shoot the enemies in the head even as they plead for their lives? Or will they dismember them in full view of the world to teach others a lesson? Will they set them ablaze in the manner of Ernesto Nhamuave?
And will they laugh around the burning bodies while singing revolutionary songs? Or will they simply do what many leaders did during the 1980s, which was simply to issue orders to the foot soldiers. In those days the leaders could still go around sipping champagne at society gatherings, knowing full well that the killing machines were in full swing in the townships.
Like Liberia’s Charles Taylor, the leaders can now still go about their business knowing full well of the death and destruction. Occasionally the cellphone will ring and they will politely ask to be excused from the dinner table so they can get progress reports from the killing fields.