Monday, 6 February 2012

Traditional murderers

I’m not a big believer in regulation. Generally speaking I believe that the vast majority of people and businesses do best for themselves, their families, neighbors and customers when they are left alone as much as possible. Of course there are exceptions. A few people are bad neighbors and refuse to obey the basic rules of conduct (don’t murder, rape, steal or drive like a combi driver). Similarly a few companies refuse to play the game according to the rules and they disrespect, abuse and show contempt for their customers. There are even governments, like those of Burma and North Korea, that refuse to play by the international rules of good conduct. All of these deserve to be criticized and perhaps even to have action taken against them.

One particular exception to my rule about leaving people alone is when public safety is at stake. Yes, of course the cops can stop you if you drive through a red light, if you exceed the speed limit or just drive like a combi driver. In fact I think they should do all these things much more often because lives are at risk.

But what about things you write, perhaps in a newspaper article like this or in an advertisement? Aren’t they protected by our nation’s traditions and laws regarding free speech? Yes, but only to an extent. You and I can’t go around saying and writing things that are a danger to the public.

That’s where we need some regulation. Someone has to step up and take action when people or businesses say or do something that is genuinely likely to hurt someone.

Before you over-react, I don’t mean hurting someone’s feelings. I think I have a right to hurt someone’s feelings if their conduct deserves it. So here goes. Prepare to have your feelings profoundly hurt.

If you’re a so-called “traditional doctor”.

We’ve all seen the advertisements. Many newspapers carry them although, to their credit, never in Mmegi. Most of what they offer is just silly. “Dr” Wango for instance offers “enlargement” of between 10-30cm within 2 days. “Drs” Shukuran, Khamisa, Katembo and Kachule offer the same impressive level of growth. However you have to feel a bit sorry for “Dr” Nkoko who can only offer a 19cm growth. Perhaps his muti isn’t as strong as the others?

Just as silly are the romantic services they offer. “Dr” Rashid can get my lost lover back, as can “Drs” Issah, Saidi, Sankho and “Proffessor” Mabo. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a special herb from the mountains of East Africa that teaches him how to spell his own title. Almost all of these fraudsters offer a mixture of jobs, promotions, financial and political success and wins at the casino. The list of wonders they can perform seems almost endless.

Of course some of these things are illegal. The Witchcraft Act, which describes itself as “An Act to suppress the imputation or practice of pretended witchcraft” outlaws “professing a knowledge of so-called witchcraft or the use of charms”. What’s more, the Penal Code outlaws anyone who “undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found”.

But here’s the bad bit. Here’s the bit where I think they cross the line, then another line and then all the other lines you can think of. They offer to kill people.

I sent text messages to all of the “doctors” who advertised in the papers last week. I asked this: “I have a big court case. Can you make the other party go away, to disappear forever?”

Several of them responded just with the word “Yes”. However, just to make sure that neither they nor I had misunderstood I replied by saying “Is it possible to make her disappear, so she’s never seen again?”

“Dr” Shaba Wa Shaba said “Yes”. “Dr” Katembo said “Yes”. The only one offering these services not to call him or herself “Dr”, just “Iwen” said “Its wt I said ys she cn go 4 gud nd nt seen on earth again”.

I confess I entrapped these quacks, I know I did, but let’s be realistic. They’re lying. They’re not really going to have someone killed with their magic potions, herbs or spells, it’s all complete hogwash. But despite this they still offered to have someone killed. They conspired with me, a party unknown to them, to have a party to a court case disappear and “go 4 gud nd nt seen on earth again”.

Section 221 of The Penal Code says that:
“Any person who conspires with any other person to kill any person whether such person is in Botswana or elsewhere, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.”
These fake “doctors” are a menace to our society. They offer services that are illegal, that pose a threat to our health and wealth and that are based on lies and superstition. The sooner we round them up and prosecute them for their actions the better. The sooner we deport any who are here illegally the safer we’ll be. The sooner they’re run out of town the better.

One last point. We currently have a Health Professionals Council that registers health professionals and people that offer health services, don’t we? Why aren’t they stepping in to stop this silliness? In fact the law that established the Council says that “No practitioner shall advertise himself or his professional services”. That’s why you never see ads from real doctors. Perhaps the BHPC should flex a bit of muscle?

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