Satanism Creeps In Among South African Teens

A February double murder in the South African city of Soweto illustrates a quiet rise in demon worship among teenagers, influenced in part by American pop culture icons.

In Soweto
In Soweto
Valérie Hirsch

SOWETO In a Soweto stadium, men and women wearing vicar collars are praying to drive away the devil. They conclude with a religious hymn, chanted by a few hundred teenagers who have come to attend the funeral of 15-year-old Thandeka Moganetsi and 16-year-old Chwayita Rathazwayo, friends who were stabbed to death Feb. 18 by two classmates who practice Satanism.

Thiko and Tumelo were arrested the following day and are detained in a youth center in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg. Thiko, nicknamed “Big Boy,” received a Bible and some candy from visiting family members. The two boys recount without emotion the chain of events of that fatal afternoon. “At school, we were the leaders of Satanism,” Thiko says. “Thandeka and Chwayita wanted to be initiated to become celebrities like Beyoncé.”

After school, the four teenagers met up. “We placed red and black candles in a triangle on the ground, and the girls cut themselves on the arm,” Thiko continues. “With their blood, they were to sign a pact with Satan. But Chwayita got scared and refused. So we became angry. After that, we don’t remember. We were possessed by the devil. When we came back to our senses, there was blood everywhere. We were overcome by panic. We burned our T-shirts and went back home. I felt like a demon.”

The boys left a candle and blades on site. Big Boy buried Chwayita’s skirt behind his house, and police found a satanic bible under his mattress.

South Africa is second only to the United States for harboring practitioners of Satanism. “They have in common a high level of violence, very powerful fundamentalist Christian churches, huge social inequalities and a society that sanctifies material,” explains Nicky Falkof, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“Satanism first started spreading in the 1980s among Afrikaners, who were anxious about the end of the apartheid. In the past few years, it has begun flourishing again, but now it is no longer limited to white South Africans,” she says.

Why worship the devil?

Though there is no organized church, Satanism is combined with occult African beliefs in townships, Falkof explains, and it is largely a teenage practice, “often a resistance strategy to face an unhappy situation,” she says.

Videos by Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Kesha have popularized symbols sometimes associated with the Illuminati, a supposedly secret organization said to seek world domination, according to vague theories by American evangelists. Gestures, jewelry and tattoos reproducing occult symbols, triangles, eyes, red and black colors associated with the devil — all of these are popular among South African teenagers


Thandeka, one of the victims, was wearing one. According to police inspector Hennie de Jager, who has registered 48 satanic cases over three months in Johannesburg and Pretoria, “People are making young girls and boys believe that they will become rich and famous.”

Sordid cases regularly make newspaper headlines. There was, for example, the case of 18-year-old Kirsty Theologo, who was burned alive in 2011 by six of her friends in southern Johannesburg. And last year in Soweto, a teenager killed four members of his famiy.

Tumelo discovered “Seth” (Satan) during a concert. “I was told he gave powers, and I did research on the Internet,” he says. With his almond-shaped eyes and smiling face, he looks not like a killer, but instead like an angel. “I wanted to get revenge on my father, who beats us when he gets back from the mine. I was hoping the devil would push him to drink until he dies of it.”

The boy shows a black mark on his palm, similar to a Christian Stigmata. “Every time I did something good, it started itching,” he says. Tumelo initiated Big Boy. “We smoked weed, we read the satanic bible and drank blood,” Big Boy says with a sometimes tragic, sometimes frightening look. “We sacrificed rats and a chicken. The spirit spoke to us in a deep voice. It even ordered us to kill our parents, but we refused.”

Since his father died of AIDS in 2008, Big Boy has been depressed. “He was taciturn and had fits of anger,” his mother explains. Also ill and appallingly thin, she claims she knew nothing about her son’s misconduct.

“We wanted to build a kingdom and get rich, but we went too far,” Big Boy says. “The vicar told me to pray to God when I feel depressed. I would now like to become an altar boy to be able to identify the good spirits.”

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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