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High court judge bemoans upsurge in murder cases involving mentally challenged people

A Bulawayo High Court judge has expressed concern over the increase in murder cases involving mentally disordered persons adding that the community should act fast in identifying such cases to ensure access to treatment to curb the scourge.

Officiating the opening of the first term circuit of the Hwange High Court yesterday, Justice Christopher Banda-Dube said the trend was worrisome and needed to be contained.

“There is also a disconcerting phenomenon of violent deaths at the hands of mentally disordered persons. The community in which these people live have a part to play in arresting this tide. Communities must quickly identify such persons living with mental illness and encourage and support them to access effective treatment as soon as possible. Communities must also ensure that persons living with mental illness do not have access to alcohol and dangerous drugs,” said Justice Dube-Banda.

He added that this intervention would go a long way in reducing incidents of violent deaths.

“In my view, these measures might reduce the incidents of violent deaths caused by persons with mental illness. In the main, it is family members, friends and the communities in which they live that are at risk of the violence perpetrated by persons with mental illness. It is important they be at the forefront of helping them. They need our assistance and let us all make it our responsibility to help them.”

The remarks come as there has been an upsurge in cases referred for mental examination or special verdicts.

Of the 10 completed cases completed last year, four accused persons were referred for mental examination under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act. The second circuit during the same year saw orders for the transfer of 3 accused persons to Mlondolozi prison.

Justice Dube-Banda bemoaned the killing of people over petty issues and at places of entertainment.

“It is saddening that some people sometimes fail to use beer drinking places as places of enjoyment and instead turn them to battlefields where okapi knives, axes, machetes and spears are used with reckless abandon. This conduct is unacceptable.”

The top judge said there was a disturbing upsurge in violent crimes including armed robberies and murders arising from domestic violence.

“There is also an upsurge of violent deaths arising from domestic violence. As a nation, we must condemn this sort of violence and plead for its end. It is important that spouses facing challenges in their marriages seek assistance from the churches, elders and even the police. There is also a disturbing upsurge of armed robberies in the country. The violence that is sometimes unleashed by these armed robbers is brutal and evil. Society must help the law enforcement authorities to arrest this tide.”

This term of the Hwange High Court circuit which will run for two weeks is set to hear 25 cases involving the violent killings.

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