Lawyer Reneetswe Rabosotho pleaded with Francistown High Court Judge Barnabas Nyamadzabo on Monday during continuation of trial that his client, Thebe Njavera’s case should not be treated like any other criminal case as he was mentally unstable at the time he committed the offence.
He also pleaded with Nyamadzabo that Njavera’s case should be handled in terms of Section 158 and 160 of Criminal Procurement Evidence (CPE) Act as it is relevant for this matter. The CPE says that when in the course of a trial or preparatory examination the judiciary officer has reason to believe that the accused is of an unsound mind and consequently incapable of making his defence, he shall inquire into the facts of such unsoundness.
Njavera, who was based at Donga BDF Military Barracks in Francistown, allegedly murdered his two daughters, Palesa Ramaditse and Paseka Ramaditse, aged four and two respectively, at Somerset Extension location in Francistown on the 4th of February 2013 after an altercation with his girlfriend. Making appearance for the state was Kuda Mbonini who called a Senior Consultant Psychiatric Doctor at Jubilee Paul Sidandi to the stand.
The Doctor said that he had attended Njavera and made a report on the 30th of March and made a subsequent report on the 13 January 2015. Sidandi said Njavera was referred to him by the BDF psychologist on the 22nd August 2012. He said on that fateful date 34 soldiers were referred to check if they were mentally fit as they were scheduled to go on trip. His findings, he said, indicated that two of the soldiers were mentally unfit and the accused was one of them. He said he then recommended that he should not handle fire arms. Sidandi told the court that the reason for referral was suspicion that the accused could be using drugs.
Dr Sidandi said that Njavera started the relationship with his girlfriend immediately when he started working for the BDF. He said that after impregnating her he denied the pregnancy but later admitted albeit with some doubt. Regarding the second child, he accepted responsibility for the pregnancy without any issues. The doctor told the court that according to the accused’s personal history he used to smoke cannabis and quit in 2011. He stopped drinking alcohol in 2012. He said in 2012 the accused caused a disturbance at his parents’ house and broke furniture for no apparent reason. He also said that he tried to burn the house using cooking gas but neighbours came to the rescue.
He said the police and BDF took him to Central Police station where he was handed to the BDF. Sidandi said that it was this incident which led to the referral and he was diagnosed with depression and prohibited from handling fire arms for six months. Sidandi said after that incident the accused left BDF without leave and sought refuge in Minestone and Somerset where he would drink eight cans of alcohol per day. “He was detained for 45 days, after that he ran away again on two occasions. The first one he was detained for 40 days while the second he was detained for 20 days,” said Sidandi.
The doctor reported that Njavera explained that the reason why he absconded is that he did not like his job as he was bored. He said on that particular day he was depressed and homicidal. Moreover Sidandi said on the 6th April 2012 the accused was delusional and could not be shaken from the belief that his girlfriend was exploiting him. It was then discovered that he never took his depressants and a suicidal tracking scan was conducted and indicated that the accused wished he was dead and wanted to harm himself badly. He said a review report conducted on the 2nd of January 2015 showed that accused’s use of drugs, his refusal to accept his first child, the breaking of furniture, the attempt to burn his parent’s house and himself and chasing people from the house were signs that he had a mental condition.
Sidandi said regardless of all his deeds it was observed that his girlfriend had forgiven him as she visited him in prison and also admitted to being responsible for the pregnancy of the third child she was carrying at the time of the visit. He also observed that accused suffered from filicide. “This refers to the killing of a child (own) who is less than 18 years,” he explained. He said the child can either be killed by biological parents, parental guardians or step parents and it can be committed by both men and women.Moreover he said from the clinical history he had presented he drew an opinion in line with three diagnosis.
“Social and antisocial personality disorder, mental disorder due to cannabis and alcohol abuse and depression which is related to alcohol dependence and psycho-social stresses,” he said adding that a person suffering from this disorder is short-tempered which leads to violence and blame on others. Sidandi said that he then made recommendations which suggested that the accused is better off in a custodial environment where alcohol and drugs are not available. He said it was noted that accused still required extensive counselling, which can be done at Sbrana Hospital.
However he said that it was noted that Sbrana was not secure as there were cases in which a lot of patients have escaped from the medical facility putting others at risk. “I leave it to the court to decide best placement for accused. There is a law for those who commit offence because they are insane,” he said emphasising that there is a mental board which allows them to visit the prison after every six months.
During cross-examination Rabosotho asked if there was treatment for people of the accused’s calibre. “In terms of alcohol and drug abuse, detoxication has been achieved as he has been in a custodial environment. Depression which can be on and off, anti-depressants and stabilisers could help,” he replied explaining that the main problem is mental disorder which involves a prolonged therapy which in prison set-up is done by social workers, visiting doctors, psychologists and psychiatric nurses. However he said that the number of psychologists in prisons is small. Njavera’s attorney further asked the doctor about the number of specialists who deal with people of the same condition of the accused. Sidandi replied that such people were even in hospitals.
Rabosotho then told the court that if it was in the case of a proper criminal trial the accused through his counsel may move the court to acquit and discharge him because there would be no case to answer. “Alternatively the court would rule that the accused has a case to answer,” he said. Njavera’s attorney also said that when this case resumed on the 7th March 2015 parties agreed that the matter should proceed according to 158 & 160 of CPE. He said both parties share the view that the court should depart from the usual procedure. “My submission is that it will be improper to call upon him to answer to acts he committed when he was insane.
In our view that is why the legislature made section 158 & 160 of CPE,” he said adding that the court should find that the accused killed his daughters at the time and place alleged but he was insane when he did so and pleaded that a report of the matter be filed with His Excellency (Ian Khama) for his due consideration while the accused is confined in a mental institution. The court will make a ruling on the 16th of September on whether there is a case to answer but in the meantime Njavera will be remanded in custody while he awaits his fate.