WEEKEND POST REPORTER
EASTERN Cape police have appointed three detectives to specialise in occult-related crime as part of a national drive by the SAPS to crack down on muti murders and other crimes – including the bizarre rape by a "tokoloshe spirit" – that may occur during the practising of satanism, witchcraft and even vampirism.
This has been confirmed by Eastern Cape police after a internal police memo, entitled: Investigation of Harmful Occult-Related Crimes: Investigation Support Capacity was leaked on the internet and to the media earlier this week. According to provincial police spokesman Lt Colonel Sibongile Soci the three officers have been trained to investigate:
Witchcraft-related offences, including black magic, witch-finding and witch-purging;
The practice of voodoo intended to cause harm;
Vampirism and joint infringement of the Human Tissue Act;
Murder or human sacrifice leaving evidence of occult involvement; and
Allegations of rape by a tokoloshe spirit.
Religious leaders and academics in the province have welcomed the move as being "long overdue", claiming occult-related crimes like muti killings, human sacrifice and initiation rituals involving rape are reaching critical levels. Clergymen have even reported that vampirism – drinking the blood of other humans and slaughtered pets for sexual arousal – is on the rise.
The establishment of these teams in each of the nine provinces comes 15 years after police disbanded its Occult-Related Crime Unit, following complaints by human rights groups who argued that the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, a definition broad enough to include satanists.
"SAPS Eastern Cape has trained three detectives at warrant officer rank, who will be centralised, but each dealing with a specific part of the province [which is still to be specified]" Soci said.
Pastors James Lottering, of Word of Faith in Port Elizabeth, and Barry Thomas, of the First City Baptist Church in East London, have both reported "intensifying" occult activity in the past three years.
"In the early 1990s East London was known as the satanism capital of South Africa. That died off but now it appears to be back. What is most disturbing is that it is taking the form of vampirism," Thomas said.
"About two years ago I became aware of a coven of about 50 people practising vampirism in Gonubie, where human and animal blood was being drunk. Many of these youngsters came to me after we had discovered them. There are elder men, called lords, who oversee the gatherings and administer lessons to the youngsters."
Lottering said it was imperative that the new unit initially focused on the former Ciskei and Transkei areas of the Eastern Cape to combat muti murders. "I counsel many people every day and what is apparent is that witchcraft in the rural areas is filtering into the cities. There are of course cultural factors to consider but if you are killing humans for body parts to put spells on people that is demonic, both spiritually and physically," he said.
The new occult-unit officers have undergone months of training under the tutelage of Dr Kobus "Donker" Jonker, former head of the Occult-Related Crimes Unit.
He said there were more of these cults cropping up every day.
"The leaders don't appear to be anything special, but they are highly charismatic. This draws in their followers, who are often lost in their lives. Initially they stick rigidly to the teachings of the Bible but then they begin to present themselves as messiah figures. This trend is developing at a lot of universities."
However for members of the SA Pagan Rights Alliance, like Port Elizabeth's Christina Engler, the new units represent "a big backward step".
"The units will be influenced by Christian doctrine, which will lump pagans like me into the same group as satanists and anybody they think will commit a crime. This will reinforce stereotypes and make people doubt themselves all over again," Engler said.