Beach sacrifices spark fury

Durban, South Africa - A bizarre midnight ritual involving the slaughter of three black sheep on a popular Durban beach has enraged animal rights activists.

A Durban group, the Healing Oracle, is being investigated for suspected occult practices after the beach "ritual" which horrified onlookers.

The NSPCA was outraged when they discovered that three black sheep had been slaughtered during the ritual.

Roland Fivaz, a senior inspector at the NSPCA's Occult Unit, said that at this stage they were still investigating whether the ritual had occult links.

"We are trying to establish a pattern of events. The matter is currently under investigation," he said.

Lifeguards and fishermen at Isipingo Beach were taken aback on Friday night when they witnessed three black sheep being slaughtered around a large bonfire.

However, Prophet Moses Michael, the head of the Healing Oracle Church in Shallcross, said that the group had nothing to hide and that the "healing" had no satanic bearing whatsoever.

"Everything that we do is based on the Old Testament of the Bible," he said.

"What we were doing on the beach was a spiritual healing and, as with all practices, we have rituals too".

Michael said the group practiced "diversive healing," which was "a very powerful concept".

"How can they call what we do satanic when the purpose of what we do is purely for healing purposes?"

He said that "bad wind" was cast from the body of the person being healed into the sea, where it was trapped.

"We can't do the healing inland because the bad wind will be left free to catch someone else. What we do is trap it in the sea and then wash the person having problems with sea water. This washing of the person then forms a sort of covenant for them and they are then protected," he said.

Each "healing" took approximately two hours and was done at night to protect the identity of the people involved.

A spokesperson for the Healing Oracle said the group dealt mainly with people affected by witchcraft and that the group was very spiritual.

However, Yvonne Ackermann, an inspector at the NSPCA in Amanzimtoti, said it was disgusting that the animals were killed in such a cruel manner.

"This is despicable behaviour. Animals should also be treated with dignity," she said.

"I often receive phone calls from people claiming to have seen strange activities involving animals. I was a bit sceptical at first but this is a serious crime against innocent animals," she said.

Ackermann said acts of cruelty toward animals had to be stopped, especially the inhumane killing of animals.

Jace Govender of Nokia Search and Rescue said he had noticed a large group of people around a fire while driving past the beach.

"I stopped and spoke to fishermen who showed me what was happening. On closer inspection, I saw three sheep lying on the ground," he said.

Govender said several pieces of camphor had been lit in a circle around the bonfire. He said two people, who appeared to be the leaders, were wearing black robes while a man standing close to them was wearing a blood-stained T-shirt.

"I also saw a few people sitting inside a series of black circles. They looked like they were meditating," said Govender.

Govender, who is also a lifeguard, said that the sacrificing of animals and lighting of fires on the beach were dangerous to people on the beach.

"When animals are sacrificed on the beach, their blood washes into the sea. This attracts sharks, which could start a feeding frenzy. This poses a huge threat to bathers."

Govender said people involved in such practices broke the law because municipal by-laws prohibit fires and animal sacrifices on beaches.

"We often see carcasses of animals lying on the beach. Last month, we found the burnt carcass of a pig lying on the shore, surrounded by blood."