So I am back at work this week after an obscenely perfect holiday in paradise, AKA Zanzibar.
(I can’t blog about it. It was too lovely for words. Will post pictures.)
The week has been an interesting one. I spent Wednesday in court listening to the case of one Jo Schmo, who set fire to a scanner in the ANC’s offices… somewhere in 2008. He then waited for the police to come and arrest him.
Three psychiatrists have testified that he is a “chronic paranoid schizophrenic”, and the long-suffering magistrate, the prosecution and the defense are all keen to get him treatment and to admit him as a state president’s patient, but the man insists that he is sane. The fact that he seems reasonable, healthy, and is deadly during cross examination, does not really support the shrink’s case. But then apparently that is the case with real nutters. They look like normal people. This one just happens to be incredibly sharp as well.
In Jo’s frustration to be heard and, with a little stretch of the imagination, believed, he has gone to some extremes.
Apart from making fire in the ANC headquarters, Jo has taken his plight to parliament where he was arrested for causing a disturbance in June 2007. In a more radical move, he once threatened to harm his sister’s child when they were visiting him during a previous period of incarceration, and Tokyo Sexwale, apparently, had to talk him down, and get him to release the girl.
Jo wrote in a press release given to his lawyer to distribute, that “before I burnt the scanner I informed the government of South Africa that […] my intention is to be given a legal platform from which I can tell the world what the ANC-led government has been doing behind closed doors.”
In the press release he also promises to disclose how the department of Home Affairs issued his ID to someone else (this is hardly news, I know, Home Affairs drive people to the edge on a regular basis); how he applied for political asylum in 2001 and renounced his South African citizenship in Ethiopia in 2004; how he was arrested in Liboi, Kenya, after the SA government linked him with “the Islamic insurgents of Somalia” and how he was kidnapped from the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, drugged, and brought to South Africa on 6 March 2006.
Jo said in court last week that he wanted to recover secret documents, related to the death of Samora Machel, which he had given to former President Nelson Mandela. And between Jo and his brother they appear to have calculated that he is due some R300 million-odd in compensation, for having been unjustly imprisoned. Jo says he spent an additional seventeen years in prison after completing a ten-year sentence, when an inmate with the same name was mistakenly released instead of him.
Jo made it clear when he addressed the court that government was conspiring to keep him in jail. In fact, he suspected that the prosecutor, Ms van Eeden, was part of the conspiracy, but had not yet decided if Magistrate Bezuidenhout was part of the conspiracy as well.
After his first period of observation in Sterkfontein, his psychiatrist testified that he did not appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions when he committed the crime. Jo, who represented himself at that stage, successfully challenged the finding in court. He apparently asked her if she was a lawyer and if she was versed in legal process. When she said no, he asked her on what authority could she determine that he could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his action. He pointed out that if you set fire to equipment in anybody’s office anywhere in the world, that would be a crime, and she had no answer for that apparently. As a result, Magistrate Bezuidenhout sent Jo back to Sterkfontein for further observation, with the three psychiatrists who testified last week. I really do look forward to the next installment, which will come sometime after 14 October, when the case continues.
Tomorrow I am going to the bush for five days on a shoot. It’s work, really. I can’t help it if we will be working in an expensive and ridiculously luxurious game lodge and travelling there in a private jet. Life is so shit at the moment.