Thursday 4 June 2009

More on healers

Say it out loud, go on. Well, I think it’s funny.

Some of the people close to me think I’m obsessed. They think I’ve developed a slightly mad devotion to certain subjects, certain groups of people and certain things that the consumers of Botswana experience.

I confess. If wanting to expose crooks makes me obsessed then I confess, I’m obsessed. If the desire to repeatedly show that some stores are ignoring the law makes me obsessed than again I confess. If exposing certain traditional “doctors” as the charlatans that they really are makes me obsessed then I welcome the label. I AM obsessed with exposing them.

In April I wrote an open letter to the Commissioner of Police about the claims of a certain “Dr” Jabu who advertised his services and products to the public. In his unbelievable advert he claimed he could “treat all types of cancer within 30-45 days”. He also claimed to have treatments, “all effective within 60 to 90 days, for paralysis, thalassemia, infertility, epilepsy, cataract, muscular dystrophy” and “other diseases of the brain”. He also claimed to have treatments for many of the conditions associated with HIV/AIDS like PCP and Kaposi’s sarcoma. (You can see his advertisements on our web site.)

The good news is that the letter has been acknowledged. The bad news is that it wasn’t acknowledged by anyone in the Police. It was acknowledged by the President’s office. We sent H.E. a copy of the letter and his people had the courtesy to write back and say they would keep an eye on the complaint. Nothing yet from the Police though.

The subject of the complaint, the so-called “Dr” Jabu, has entered the modern era. He has an email address and that seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. I emailed Jabu and posed a question. I’m afraid I lied so you’ll need to forgive me. I asked him if he had anything that could help me with my fictitious AIDS-related pneumonia. I also said I had a friend with Kaposi’s sarcoma who needed help.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting a response but rather wonderfully I got one. His 915 words of delusion went far beyond my expectations.

To begin with he confirmed that he “treatment for Kaposis, PCP and HIV/AIDS”. This was followed by a VERY long description of his ideas about AIDS. I’ve put the whole thing on our web site but here’s an excerpt to give you a flavour of his lunacy. Trust me, I’m not making this up.

“The next damage will be on Gonads which controls the digestion of the phosphorus., then this will lead to the reduction of the internal-heat., by that time a patient experincing a problem with lack of apetite which in turn leads to the creation of massive water in the body.- This is when a patient start suffering from colds and sinus. And so Anti-biotics/drugs will be advised which may result in more production of H+ after the liver's also damaged and led to Candidiasis”

So what is he offering? What miraculous things can we buy from him to cure AIDS? He states that the best solutions are herbal remedies, acupressure, detoxification, yoga, chromotherapy and most worrying of all, “green juice”.

Don’t try to see any logic in this nonsense because there isn’t any. It’s even more deranged than the normal AIDS denialist claptrap we sometimes see.

So what relevance does this have to consumers? Why is this a consumer issue?

It’s a consumer issue because he takes money for this. This criminal charlatan doesn’t do this for free, he makes his living from selling this outrageous rubbish. Luckily the law is on our side, on the side of the consumer.

Firstly the Consumer Protection Regulations declare that a supplier has failed to meet the minimum standards of performance if he “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated”. Clearly Jabu does this with all that nonsense about phosphorus, internal heat and liver damage.

The Regulations also forbid suppliers from promising “outcomes where those outcomes have no safe scientific, medical or performance basis”. Jabu’s “green juice” cannot cure AIDS, he’s a liar when he says it can.

More importantly he has committed some real crimes, not just minor infringements of non-enforced Regulations. For instance he broke Section 397 of the Penal Code by advertising medicines and treatments for diseases, specifically for AIDS. For that he can go to jail for up to a year. However I think I’ve found a way of perhaps sending Jabu to jail for much longer.

The problem with crooks like Jabu is that sooner or later some unfortunate, desperate person with AIDS is going to abandon their real anti-retroviral drugs and take one of Jabu’s mad treatments. They will then die earlier than they would otherwise have done so. I think it then just takes a fairly smart lawyer to argue that he had “hastened the death” of the victim. He’s then guilty of manslaughter, the sentence for which is life imprisonment.

I’m not sure that Jabu should go to prison for life. I have no evidence that he’s hastened anyone’s death, at least not yet. But I do think he is perilously close to doing so and if he wants to avoid doing hard time he should clear off before he kills someone.

[Click here to see some of the ways we're taking the battle back to the "healers".]

This week’s stars
  • Widzani from GWM in Gaborone. Apparently she was “friendly and efficient, she found a buyer for my car and she had all the banks calling me! I didn’t have to go running around from bank to bank trying to find the best rate.”
  • Tapiwa at Ackermans at Game City for being ready and willing to help a customer.
  • Suresh and family at Knack at Kgale Hill Shopping Centre for “the usual excellent, friendly and helpful service”.

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