Occult Crime Unit to investigate the supernatural

The South African Police Service is launching new regional occult crime units. According to a leaked memorandum, Provincial Commissioners were recently instructed to appoint two detectives in every province tasked with investigating alleged harmful occult-related crimes.

Those already familiar with the work of the old ORC unit then led by Kobus Jonker, will recall that between 1992 and 2001 the unit is alleged to have investigated 300 cases of muti-related crimes (murders committed for the express purpose of harvesting human body parts for sale to traditional healers).

The ORC’s previous mandate included: a) investigating occult-related crime, b) in conjunction with the South African Police Service Crime Intelligence, promoting the prevention of occult-related crime, c) managing the use and dissemination of information on occult-related crime, and d) rendering services to victims of occult-related crime.

In addition to investigating muti murders, newly appointed detectives will be required to also investigate spectral evidence including spiritual intimidation and astral coercion, curses intended to cause harm, allegations of rape by tokoloshe spirits, and poltergeist and paranormal phenomena.

The units will also be responsible for investigating alleged offences relating to Witchcraft (identified as “black magic” by the SAPS), Voodoo, vampirism, harmful cult behavior, suicide where evidence of occult involvement is present, animal mutilation and sacrifice where evidence of occult involvement is believed to be indicated, human sacrifice, and the interpretation of alleged occult signatures, vandalism and graffiti at crime scenes.

This newly envisioned scope of investigation must be viewed with suspicion and be of concern to anyone engaged in the practice of Witchcraft, Traditional African religion, and other Occult spiritualities (including Satanism). Given the already evident bias expressed by ex-members of ORC and new members of provincial Religious Crimes Units against Witchcraft, SAPRA believes the new mandate potentially threatens religious minorities who may be scapegoated on the basis of belief alone.

It is the informed opinion of this Alliance that the given investigative mandate for the establishment of new provincial Occult Crime Units, in particular, certain ‘categories of crime’ as mentioned in said memorandum, contravene internationally recognized policing ethics and conduct related to a) jurisprudence in the identification and verification of evidence, and b) respect for religious diversity and belief.

Read SAPRA’s Objections to the SAPS ORC investigation mandate

Law of Evidence

The SAPS memorandum states “For a crime to be considered a harmful occult-related crime, the elements of legality, conduct and unlawfulness and culpability have to be present and the motive must be rooted in the supernatural.”

The term ‘supernatural’ is generally defined as something above or beyond the laws of Nature. In a strictly scientific context, the belief in the supernatural agency of a non-corporeal entity (spirit, fairy, demon, God) cannot be proven using the law of evidence in any Court of Law, and therefore cannot be submitted as evidence of anything other than faith in the unknown. Since the courts will not accept evidence of the supernatural on principle, the ORC detectives will be wasting valuable time and effort investigating para-psychological phenomena.

This Alliance is of the informed opinion that SAPS special unit detectives should not be considering the role of alleged supernatural occurrences in the commission or investigation of crimes. A belief in the existence of the supernatural is not, and cannot be viewed as proof of the supernatural. The SAPS must deal in matters of verifiable fact, not religious or cultural belief. The SAPS should not be fulfilling what should remain the role of religious or psychology specialists.

This Alliance objects to the inclusion of unexplained and unprovable supernatural and paranormal activities, as such matters are best left to para-psychologists and spiritualists, not police detectives.

Religious bias, prejudice and propaganda against the Occult

In the SAPS memorandum under objection, newly appointed detectives of regional occult crime units are encouraged to consult with “trained individuals in their respective provinces… with the investigation of an alleged harmful occult-related crime”.

It must be noted that former occult unit detectives, many of whom now independently pursue careers in Christian ministry and in particular, ministry against the Occult, Witchcraft, Satanism, and ‘Spiritual-warfare’ ministries targeted specifically at Witches and Satanists, will be consulted by detectives assigned to regional occult crime units.

This Alliance is of the opinion that consultations with such persons will introduce highly subjective religious bias and prejudicial reasoning into investigations which should remain rationally objective.

SAPRA has submitted formal objection to the scope of the new SAPS mandate and will be closely monitoring the activities of all new ORC units to ensure that innocent civilians are not targeted by un-provable allegations of criminal or harmful activities.

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