Occult busting unit for police?
1/11/2007 4:02:06 PM (GMT +2)
Does the Botswana Police Service need a specialised unit to deal with ritual murders? Below GORDON KEMBLEY attempts to find answers to this difficult question.
The phrase "ritual murder", previously featuring only rarely in discussions in Botswana, has lately become commonplace. While in the past there was the occasional mention of "raboko" whom many children grew up knowing could snatch children who wandered too far from home, and kill them to remove their brain and other body parts, the panic buttons were not activated as in many places talk about "boraboko" would be as alien as discussing Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) to children in the CKGR.
Today, however, a number of incidents come to mind whenever a discussion of this nature comes up: The 1995 grizzly murder of Mochudi schoolgirl, Segametsi Mogomotsi whose body parts were removed. Flashback: Exactly 17 years earlier two Bontleng girls had been murdered in similar fashion and their bodies dumped in one of the swampy streams supplying the Gaborone Dam. The killers were arrested, charged with murder and given the death sentence. In recent years many corpses have been found abandoned in thickets and other hidden places. With body parts such as brain, genitals, tongues and eyes having been cruelly removed, the police concluded that the killings were ritualistic. Take the case of the pregnant Molepolole woman, Tinki Balotlegi, who was murdered in late 2004. According to the coroner, her private parts and eyes were removed while she was still alive. Of the initial four suspects, only one man has been found guilty of the heinous crime and handed the death sentence. The other suspects, one of whom argued that a piece of meat that police suspected had been harvested from the dead woman, was only a hyena's anus, walked free. Also coming to mind is the case of the nine-year-old Kaudwane boy whose body parts were harvested by some men. Fortunately for the boy he managed to slip from his tormentors' hold as they were harvesting his body parts. The criminals had already removed the whole sheath covering the penis, and cut small pieces from his knees and belly. The men were arrested and in the absence of legislation that could clearly categorise their crime, they were charged with causing grievous bodily harm, contrary to section 2:30 of the penal code. The men are yet to be arraigned before court. The list is endless. Then there are the many mysterious disappearances of mostly sound minded and physically fit people happening every now and then. Is there a possibility some of these people might have become victims of organ harvesters?
Suffice it to say, the Botswana Police detectives are working hard to solve these murders and establish how the many people who cannot be found simply vanished into thin air. "It is a frustrating task, sometimes you get the feeling you don't know what you are doing as the number of strands during the investigation point to something bigger, something that needs people who understand the nature of ritual murders and who will apply better techniques than the usual ones we use when we investigate homicide," says detective Langston Mpedi*. The need to set up a specialized unit within the police service is more urgent than ever, argues Mpedi. He cites the case of Segametsi as a case in point.
"As our local detectives do not have experience investigating religiously or culturally stimulated murders Scotland Yard had to be asked to help solve the grizzly murder," he said. The findings of Scotland Yard have never been made public.
Around the world governments are setting up legislation that differentiates occult related crimes such as murder from other crimes. The same governments are also setting up specialised units within their police services to deal with the crimes.
This according to University of Botswana Anthropologist Dr. Lesley Nthoi is what needs to be done. "Before we can even deal with the question of whether the police need to establish such a unit, we need to establish if the law is sensitive to religiously inspired crimes.
The police cannot be equipped to deal with anything that is not in the law, so the law first needs to recognize the phenomenon and differentiate it from others," argues Nthoi. In fact, Nthoi argues that the police need to be equipped to deal with many other issues, citing an example the cultural dimension to policing.
"How do you convince the police to allow you to see a suicide note from a family member? The police will refuse, as their argument would be that the note forms part of their investigation and that investigations are ongoing. It is possible the suicide note may have instructions as to how the burial should be conducted and in our culture we know the instruction of a dead man is highly respected.
But for them to be able to deal with such issues, the issues need to be enshrined in the law," he said. But the phenomenon that has been classified as satanism influenced, occult or ritualistic murders with all the terms used interchangeably has proven to be a complex one, so much that lawmakers around the world are finding it difficult to enact umbrella laws that can deal satisfactorily with the many different and bizarre crimes that may be similar or vary significantly.
In a bid to ensure proper investigation and categorization of the crimes, governments are investing lots of money in the training of their police to equip them to effectively handle these misdemeanours. Closer to Botswana, South Africa has a dedicated Unit to deal with occult and drug related Crime. Headed for a long time by Senior Superintendent (retired) Kobus Jonker, the Unit recorded many successes with many bizarre cases.
Jonker, in his book 'Satanism the Seduction of South Africa's Youth', states that he discovered during his many investigations that many ritual murders and disappearances take place during Christian holy days such as Christmas, Easter and so on, clearly, he says in parody to the Christians holy days. Last year Zimbabwe set up a law that recognizes the practice of witchcraft and also that offences can be perpetrated in the name of Witchcraft. That allowed their police to be able to deal with issues pertaining to witchcraft.
In the case of Botswana, the law treats occult-related murder as homicide and Deputy Police Commissioner Kenny Kapinga says the time has not come to set up a unit to deal with such crimes.
"Our detectives are well trained to investigate homicide," he said in an interview. Kapinga argues the need to establish such a unit would be dependent on too many crimes of that nature being reported. "In our view, the frequency of such crimes does not warrant establishment of such a unit, as the crimes happen only once in a while," he said.
Of the "few" cases that his detectives have had to investigate, he says the Botswana Police "have scored so high that some of the perpetrators received capital punishment." A senior Attorney at the Attorney General's Chambers who declined to be named citing protocol however disagrees.
"If you look for example at the Molepolole case [that of Tinki Balotlegi], if the police had a specialized unit they would have dealt with exhibits in a different manner. And you heard how unhappy the judge was with the way the police handled their evidence" he said, adding that it is clear that lack of specialization limits the police to effectively deal with ritualistic killings and related crimes. In resonance to Dr. Nthoi's statements the lawyer said that it would be necessary to have a law that differentiates ritual murder and other religiously inspired crimes.
"As it is now there is no such legislation. We treat all murder as murder. If for example someone decided to poison men in a certain tribal group to weaken or annihilate the group, the law will simply treat that as murder."
However, he said the circumstances of a ritual murder often rule out such excuses as manslaughter, which can take place during a beer brawl, and that if proper investigation has been done, all loop-holes closed and a strong case presented before the courts, the perpetrators will always get the death sentence.
Seems that this law-enforcement agency is taking a more balanced perspective on the subject. Chances are that if there is some sort of report on so-called "ritual murder", it probably is not, but just a homicide, and those who commit these crimes will meet justice, just like any other criminal.
Also take into consideration the location of these allegations - in Africa, it is probably a Palo Mayombe variation, who do believe in sacrifice and a good / evil belief-system, but it is definitely not Satanism.