The Mental Health Board – a statutory body established by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, is reportedly frustrated by President Ian Khama’s reluctance to implement its recommendations to free mentally ill offenders detained at his pleasure.
The board, which is founded under the Mental Disorders’ Act, is made up of diverse experts in the medical and psychological field.
Highly placed sources told Mmegi that for the past seven years, Khama had generally been declining to act on the board ‘s recommendations and had a 25% approval rate for cases they brought forward.
The board, according to its Act, visits each instituion where convicts are detained at least once every six months. During each visit, the board members observe patients, inspect their wards and the places where patients are ordinarily employed.
The board’s chair, Dr Edward Maganu said they conduct a thorough assessment of the detainee and send a detailed recommendation report to the director of Health Services who then routes it to the President, via the Attorney General.
“The Presidency then informs us about successful cases, which are mostly around 25% of the recommended cases,” he said.
Pressed further, Maganu revealed that the board is never informed of the reasons why the President has turned down their recommendations.
“The president is not obliged to inform us and the board does not have much powers except to recommend,” he said, adding that the board sits twice a year.
A high-ranking source within the legal fraternity told Mmegi that the President’s intransigence was frustrating and “unreasonable”.
“We always ask ourselves that if the board has been set to advise and recommend based on its assessment, expertise and experience, whose advice
He said frustration also emanated from the fact that no further assessment was done after the board’s recommendations, which could be associated with the President’s refusal.
“It’s hard because if you have recommended somebody for release and the President says no, the question becomes what we should do with that person. It does not only frustrate us but also the person recommended for release,” the source said.
Khama, according to the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act, has the powers to release the detainee, keep him in confinement or determine the conditions governing or affecting the confinement or release of the confined person as he may think.
The permanent secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi could not be drawn into discussing the matter, urging this publication to speak to the Attorney General. The Attorney General’s deputy, Matlhogonolo Phuthego said the role of the Attorney General is to advise on points of law. “If the Attorney General posits that the releasing of a certain individual is not advisable, they will advise so.
“You have to understand that the AG can only give a legal opinion and people are not obliged to take it,” he said.
Complainants in the matter are reportedly banking on the ongoing review of the Mental Disorder Act and the looming review of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act.