Kessie Nair
DURBAN - EXPERTS on psychology and race issues have warned against using mental illness to justify racism and hate speech, to escape the wrath of the law.

Phoenix businessman Kasavan “Kessie” Nair was hauled to the Verulam Family Court this week on charges of crimen injuria following a Facebook video in which he referred to the president by the k-word. His brother, Krishnan Nair, said in a statement that Nair was suffering from a “chronic illness”.

In 2005, Nair was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for fraud.

Krishnan said: “The visuals he posted of himself shows he lacks the intelligence and understating of what he is saying. His incarceration for a long time has also played a role in his personality. He is physically and mentally unwell.”

But mental illness or cognitive impairment would be unlikely to trigger the use of a particular word, according to psychologist Adele Munsami.

“It is plausible that post-traumatic stress - rooted in negative experiences during imprisonment - may exist. However, the use of a particular word would require a trigger to evoke this reaction. But be cautious about the use of mental illness to avoid responsibility and accountability for one’s actions,” she said.

In the video Nair rambles on about the president, the state of the country, and touches on racism.

Michael Morris, head of media at the Institute of Race Relations, said while there may be circumstances in which mental impairment could justifiably be used to discount offensive or hateful speech, a medical or psychiatric authority should make this judgement.

“It is not clear in Kessie Nair’s case whether any such authoritative determination has been reached,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nair sent a message on Tuesday to the Sunday Tribune calling for “compulsive fraudulent” president Cyril Ramaphosa to step down.

“If you don’t step down today, innocent people are going to shed their blood. Chatsworth will be plunged into sporadic acts of violence,” Nair threatened.

Nair is being kept in custody at the Westville Prison. He is expected to return to court on October 26 for a bail application.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE