A Community Perspective
The South African Police Service should be exactly that, a service to the people of our country. However, 58% of calls to 10111 don’t get investigated, dockets go missing, corruption is rife and bribery may as well be part of the job. For the most part the SAPS are inept, but if there is one unit in the past that did everything in its power to persecute, it was the Occult-Related Crime Unit.
For the most part, all the ORCU did was spread propaganda regarding the Occult and Pagan beliefs, and thanks to its unconstitutional motivation, was disbanded in 2001. But some of its ex-members in the police service didn’t give up and their efforts paid off. Thanks to a leaked SAPS memo dated 21 August 2012, we now know that the ORCU is back with 18 members trained under self-styled ‘occult expert’ Kobus Jonker.
Blast from the Past
According to Rt. Reverend Mynie Geldenhuys, President of the Pagan Federation of South Africa, “The previous Occult Unit under Kobus Jonker never proved a single case of Witchcraft related crime”. She explains that the cases investigated by the previous ORCU turned out to be crimes committed for mundane reasons that were tried under common law.
For this reason Mynie believes that there is no reason for a ORCU. “In my opinion, all reported complaints and cases under investigation by SAP, be they perpetrated by people following an occult path or not, should be dealt with according to the criminal law. If deliberate harm is caused by one person to another, then it is a Criminal Act and has nothing to do with an individual’s belief system.”
Solitary Hedgewitch, Hazel Sayer, says “the police would be serving the public far better by focusing on taking preventative measures against the people who are attacking, torturing and murdering innocent people in our rural areas because they are believed to be witches.”
A Collective Concern
The news of a resurrected ORCU has sparked speculation, debate and in some cases, outrage from members of the Pagan, Occult, Vampyre and Satanist communities. What is clear is that there is an undercurrent of concern rippling through these communities.
Foremost of those concerns is that the new ORCU will infringe on the constitutional rights of minority religions and beliefs, a concern shared by Hazel. She believes that the new ORCU “is very likely to result in accusations from hysterical fundamentalists every time there is an “unusual” crime committed.” A concern that is not unfounded considering the propaganda against Occult and Pagan practices that is given to the public by self-styled ‘occult experts’ like F.H. Havenga and K. Jonker, both in the past and present.
Mynie says “Despite a policy of transparency, open communication and co-operation with both law enforcement and the general public over a period of 22 years, there is still much media hype, misinformation and accusations of Satanism leveled towards both groups and individuals who self identify as Pagan or Heathen in SA”.
However, not everyone in the Occult and Pagan communities share Mynie and Hazel’s concerns. Paul, a Johannesburg-based Occultist, believes that the Occult-Related Crime Unit won’t be a real problem because “police and government are largely incompetent, and having two or three detectives per province is not going to do anything.”
A similar sentiment is shared by Zeo Frost, Arch Priest of the Notrenlim Phoenix Tradition, who says he doesn’t believe in the threat the ORCU poses. He doubts that the members of the ORCU can simply “march into your house and start accusing as they please”.
And while KhemaySekhmet, Imaku of Temple of Sekhmet and President of CAM, says he doesn’t have a problem with the idea of a unit, he highlights what is of primary concern to the majority of Occultists and Pagans, “(it) is a unit run predominantly by the Christians and anything and everything is branded as Satanism if it is not of the Christian God.”
According to KhemaySekhmet both in the past and present the problem has not been the unit itself, but the misinformation imposed on the general public regarding the beliefs and practices of minority religions and Traditional African religion. He further explains that superstitions, misinformation about Paganism and a fundamentalist Christian perspective make for a dangerous mix, especially when it is enforced by the latter. “If we have one religious group using this as a type of “Spanish Inquisition” staging ground none of us will be spared.”
Paul agrees that “the real problem is that the Christian perspective is being trained in the police and that laws are being influenced by religion.” However he believes that it’s not just the misinformation that is the problem, but that fear-mongering by the likes of Kobus Jonker is being taken seriously by the media and general public.
In Paul’s opinion self-styled ‘occult experts’ are like a wandering traveler who poisons the village well so he can sell the villagers a cure. There is evidence enough to support his belief. Most of the ex-members of the ORCU now have their own deliverance ministries aimed specifically at the Occult, offering the general public courses in ‘Occult-related trauma’ or similarly themed seminars for schools, businesses, churches and organizations.
Recent media interviews with Havenga, Jonker and James Lottering have already shown the Pagan and Occult communities just how misinformed ex-members of the previous ORCU are and how they boldly disseminate what amounts to propaganda regarding the Occult. As a result of this mindset, Zeo says “Pagan leaders will have to work twice as hard to educate the people on what we really are about.”
Educating the Masses
Mynie is of the belief that the Pagan community should try to bring an understanding to the general public regarding our beliefs and practices. She also advises “All SA Pagans, Witches, Occultists and Satanists can do, is continue to be as transparent as possible, educate as many people as possible and keep all channels of communication between themselves and law enforcement open.”
KhemaySekhmet believes that now is the time that the Pagan community stands together in solidarity against the ORCU and “wave the Constitution under their noses”. He also says that Pagans should be more open to teaching the general public about Paganism, and suggests holding workshops on Paganism and the Occult.
A Word of Warning
On the other side of the spectrum, Zeo Frost is of the opinion that the Pagan community should not fight back as it may only “fuel the fire of their hateful propaganda”. However, that’s not to say he encourages a course of non action. “I am not saying that we should not take up our brooms and try and solve this. I am simply saying that we should wait for the opportune moment to present itself. Only fools rush in.”
Paul too cautions “any kind of opposition or fuss made about the ORCU will only be seen as legitimizing its creation”. He warns that when the situation becomes a fight is when people stop thinking. However, Paul also believes that the best ammunition the Occult community has is “being nice” as it dispels the “bogeyman mystique” that the likes of Kobus Jonker depend on to support their claims regarding the Occult. “When you can have a conversation with someone who is open and can talk about their beliefs without getting all upset, it is hard to be scared of them and easier to see them as people,” says Paul.
Within the Occult and Pagan communities opinions are many, but options are few. What is becoming increasingly clear is that we not only need to form a united front within our respective communities, but perhaps our communities need to work together in the wake of the new ORCU. Many of us lived through the wave of ‘Satanic Panic’ of the 90’s and we don’t want to be faced with a revival of fear and fervent discrimination.