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Putting the spotlight on muti murders

News - Date: 11 August 2006

Written by: Andries van Zyl / Viewed: 2254


In his quest to gain more insight into the underlying psychological motivation behind muti murders, well-known international documentary maker, producer and journalist Oliver G Becker once again visited the Limpopo Province this week.

Although muti or ritual murders occur throughout sub-Saharan Africa, it is a subject not openly talked about and therefore not much is known about this type of so-called “occult aggression”. Since the gruesome discovery of a young African boy’s torso in the Thames River in September 2001 in London, Becker embarked on an intensive study of the subject of muti murders. The young boy, known to Scotland Yard only as Adam, was brutally killed and slaughtered for muti purposes, his arms, legs and head cut off. The incident placed the spotlight on the issue of muti murder as, up till then, it was totally uncommon in European countries.

Boasting a degree in political science, Becker has visited Africa and South Africa a couple of times for research purposes. He has produced several documentaries and a scientific paper on the matter. These include the documentary Muti Mord – die Schattenseite okkulten Glaubens in Afrika (Muti Murder – The Dark Side of Occult Belief Systems in Africa). An essay of the same title appeared in late 2005 in the scientific journal Hexen, Hexenverfolgung und magische Vorstellungswelten im modernen Afrika (“Witches, Witch Hunts and the Magic Realm of Imagination in Modern Africa”). More recently, Becker was tasked by the German government to produce and direct a documentary about the correlation between witchcraft and soccer in Africa, aired during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament in Germany. His subsequent documentary, Kick the Lion, premiered on May 8 in Frankfurt am Main.

The filming of Kick the Lion took Becker across Africa. The feature-length documentary tries to give an inside view of occult practices associated with soccer in Africa. In trying to achieve this, Becker visited Tanzania and Uganda in East Africa, Ghana in West Africa and Swaziland and South Africa in the south.

As for his most recent visit to South Africa and more specifically the Limpopo Province, Becker is busy with the production of a large-scale article about muti murders for a weekly magazine published in Switzerland, called Die Weltwoche (World Week).

“It’s very important for me to say that I’m not here in Africa to cover African primitivism. It’s more important for me to look behind the curtain in trying to find the deeper-lying psychological motivation and to figure out if there is a correlation between economic crisis and political unrest. To be more precise, I’m trying to find out if there is a correlation between this type of ritualistic killing (occult violence) and political unrest or economic crisis,” said Becker during an interview with the Zoutpansberger. Becker also had the unique opportunity to interview the survivor of the latest muti murder attempt, the 35-year-old Mashudu Munzhelele, who was abducted by a group of alleged ritual killers on Monday afternoon on the Punda Maria road. Munzhelele managed to fight off his attackers moments after they started trying to cut of his hand and tongue.

“My experience in or with Africa is not only focussed on crime and cruelties. I’ve always enjoyed the hospitality of the people across Africa and the great opportunity to get access to and learn about African cultures,” said Becker.

Well-known international documentary maker, producer and journalist Oliver G Becker photographed during his visit to Makhado (Louis Trichardt).


Andries van Zyl

Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.


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