Again a confusing muddle involving Shabir Shaik, in which the authorities managed to upset just about everybody and to achieve nothing of value. Again, medical problems were invoked, but never adequately explained or justified. All this, and without even hiring Max Clifford!
First a largely pleased public learned that Shaik was picked up and put in prison "awaiting the outcome of charges into allegations of assault and parole violations."
It's rather unusual to imprison someone simply while investigations proceed, unless perhaps one seriously expects witness-tampering or intimidation. The outcome might be seen as raising exactly those suspicions. But then, wouldn't it be wiser to offer potential witnesses some sort of serious witness protection programme and help them resist any attempts at tampering or threats?
If this was no concern, why would they want to so briefly imprison someone during a remarkably brief investigation? It was said that he would be kept in prison for 72 hours, which is puzzling. What investigatory purpose would require jailing him for precisely 72 hours?
Season ticket to the hospital wing
Then he was placed as usual into the hospital wing at Westville Prison in Durban, described by his lawyer as "shell-shocked". This obsolete diagnosis is either being used poetically, or would refer to PTSD, a diagnosis which has not been claimed before, for which no valid evidence has been produced, and which seems highly unlikely in the circumstances as far as they're publically known.
Nobody can develop it within hours of imprisonment, nor from playing golf, no matter how badly. No intelligible medical evidence has been forthcoming as to why he would have needed placement in a medical ward, as there's never been proper evidence that he couldn't be adequately treated in an ordinary cell.
The medical evidence used to facilitate his release on parole has been shown to be highly questionable on medical and other grounds; one that a fresh group of doctors would be involved in any further decisions about his health or its legal implications.
His lawyer further then described him as "lying isolated ... confused and saddened". What was more confusing was the actual lack of clarity about what was being investigated, why such investigation needed his incarceration, or which parole conditions have allegedly been violated, at least so far as the authorities were concerned. Rumours abound.
It was said he'd appear before the parole board within 48 hours to learn the basis for his arrest, rather than, as one might expect, to hear their decisions based on at least preliminary results of the investigations.
Reluctant witnesses, languid investigations
The witness who seems now to have disappeared or recanted (we really ought to know which, and why) is quoted as having told a newspaper that he'd been punched by Shaik in a scuffle. If he now recants this story, one would expect an active investigation of why he gave at least two versions of events, one of which would need to have been false. And, surely, an active search for other witnesses?
If he's disappeared, so that the police, acting with due diligence, truly cannot find and interview him, then this should be alarming and lead to a serious search.
Then there have been reports that he'd scuffled with a journalist on a golf course, and that she' laid a charge of assault against him. Presumably this witness has not disappeared or changed her story - why is that matter not being assiduously investigated, and considered by the parole board?
A police spokesman said this investigation was "coming along very well", but the incident hardly requires weeks of attention by Sherlock Holmes, or the calling-in of a CSI unit. And it's lasted too long already.
Cocktails and cigars
In an interview, Shaik is quoted as saying he's taking a cocktail of medicines for his health problems, including heart problems and blood pressure, and that he "risked going blind". The earlier medical reports before he was released on parole did record raised blood pressure, but not significant heart problems, and did not mention a risk of blindness.
If, as has often been reported, he is seen smoking cigars, that could be more of a risk to his vision, and is hardly good for his health in any way.
Peculiar definition of terminal illness
Asked about his purported terminal illness, Shaik made a very interesting comment. He is quoted as saying: "Terminally ill does not imply I am in a hospice or that I am about to drop dead today. I may have serious health issues, but it does not mean I am incapacitated and incapable of playing golf in my free time."
This is a highly bizarre view of terminal illness, and only understandable in the sense that we are all mortal and will die some day, and may have serious health issues - on which grounds every prisoner should be immediately released. But wasn't his release on parole on the basis of being terminally ill in precisely the sense of being incapacitated and unable to play golf?
Then suddenly, while the media were still trying to comment on the arrest, Shaik's release was announced.
The Department of Correctional Services (not the police?) said the man he had allegedly assaulted "could not be found to help with the investigations." Really? They give up that easily and quickly, when looking for a witness?
Are they wholly uninterested in the possibility that the man may have come to some harm, or at least might have been threatened and silenced in some way? Some reports said they were "told" that the purported victim didn't want to give evidence or to help with the investigation. Surely they should be curious as to why this might be? Would or should they have relied on hearsay, as they reportedly were not able to interview him themselves?
Joining the Al-Megrahi Club
Oddly, the two most contentious releases on compassionate grounds of allegedly terminal prisoners, were Shaik and Al-Megrahi (who returned to Libya). Both are still alive, surprisingly long after being declared moribund, though we don't know if Al-Megrahi plays golf. They could form an elite club of the longest-living dying men? It's interesting how much anger such events creates - people respond as though by merely living, the freed prisoners are committing some sort of breach of promise.
(Professor M.A. Simpson, aka CyberShrink, March 2011)