When it comes to horror movies, there is usually a police officer involved in combating the evil forces of the spiritual world. While most moviegoers know, the supernatural is merely fictional, it seems the movies might be onto something.
Everyone knows the police have several divisions to investigate specific crimes. But, did you know South Africa had its very own Occult Unit? I kid you not. The unit was established in 1992, following the widespread panic around Satanism in the 1980s. In fact, to date, South Africa is the only country in the world that had a ritual murder task force within the SAPS.
The unit was established by Kobus Jonker, a born-again Christian, who was in turn prompted by the then Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok. The South African Government can’t really have allowed this unit to fly by, could they? They did, because as we know, our government is responsible for more than the occasional oddball decision.
In 2006, the SAPS defined occult-related crime on the Occult Related page of their website as follows:
Occult-related crime means any human conduct that constitutes any legally recognised crime, the modus operandi of which relates to or emanates primarily from any belief or seeming belief in the occult, witchcraft, satanism, mysticism, magic, esotericism and the like. Included in the scope of occult-related crime are ritual muti/medicine murders, witch purging, witchcraft-related violence and sect-related practices that pose a threat to the safety and security of the Republic of South Africa and/or its inhabitants.
— SAPS, Objectives of the Investigation and Prevention of Occult-Related Crime by the General Detective.
But, what about religious freedom? Surely, all criminals should face justice, irrespective of their religious preference?
With the unit consisting of only Christians, this unit seems to have been rather misguided at times. The unit actually provided warning signs to look out for, just in case your child becomes involved with sinister activities. What are these signs?
The signs involved gender confusion, playing fantasy games with minimal boundaries, an interest in computers, an excessive interest in horror movies and heavy metal music, depression and other stereotypical variants of Gothic fashion. (What were these guys smoking?!) By these signs, myself and a lot of my friends will most likely be labelled as a “possible suspect.” No more music by Ozzy Osbourne for me.
The unit disbanded in 2006, but reports surfaced in 2012 that it was still operational under the name SAPS Harmful Religious Practice Unit.
According to an internal SAPS memorandum, dated August 2012, it appears the SAPS definition of occult-related crime was simplified. How so? It reads “crime that relates to or emanates primarily from an ostensible belief in the supernatural that formed a driving force in the forming, planning and execution of a crime”.
Here are some alleged crimes which were investigated:
- Witchcraft-related offences, including black magic, witch finding and witch purging
- Traditional healers involved in criminal activities rooted in the occult
- Curses intended to cause harm
- The practice of voodoo intended to cause harm
- Vampirism and joint infringement of the Human Tissues Act. Someone call Bram Stoker.
- Allegations of rape by a tokoloshe spirit. Wait, What!?
- Animal mutilation and sacrifice leaving evidence of occult involvement
- Murder/human sacrifice leaving evidence of occult involvement. Here I always thought murder was murder, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or believe in the Tooth Fairy.
- Interpretation of occult “signatures” and paraphernalia at a crime scene
- Poltergeist phenomena (unexplained activities by paranormal disruptive entities) WHO YOU GOING TO CALL….? GHOST BUSTERS! (and cue music)
— SAPS, Investigation of Harmful Occult-related Crimes: Investigation Support Capacity (2012)
While we no longer sport a unit like this anymore, do you feel the SAPS are justified to investigate Occult Related Crimes? Or do you feel that having an Occult unit infringes on religious freedom? Or do you think law enforcement should focus on crime and not superstition?