13 DECEMBER 1969, Page 38


`Satan' at bay


Following the recent display of public con- cern about the so-called 'oil murders', in which, during the past two and a half years, a number of coloured agricultural labourers, businessmen and civil servants, as well as their wives and children, have been starved, clubbed or blasted to death with high ex- plosives in one of the choicest residential areas of West Africa, interest is centering more and more on the man ultimately responsible for the killings, the `chippy' coins munard known simply as 'Satan'. As the dam of silence begins to break, and the chuckling trickle of moral sewage grows into a brown flood of hard, repulsive evidence, there is one question on the curling lips of those who find themselves more than chin- deep in the rank deluge: how can a man associated with a cult of equality, com- passion and peace have done such a thing?

Looking at photographs of this magnetic leader of the bizarre gang of dropouts and dreamers who call themselves 'Satan's Slaves', it is even harder to answer the ques- tion: the sleepy blue eyes, floating up under languid lids, the round fleshy chin, the recently capped teeth that gleam in a tired smile, the fashionably long greying hair . . . in a happier context these might be pictures of a local chemist, of a once young head- master, or of the dedicated Baloo or Akela of a contented pack of enthusiastic young Wolf Cubs. Listening to the flat, droning voice, too, as he adroitly dodges the questions of his accusers, it is possible to detect the eerie echoes of a long-dead sense of humour, even of a now long-extinct sense of self- awareness. Indeed the closer one approaches this quietly spoken, round-shouldered megalomaniac with his professed neo-Chris- tian beliefs and apparently stable middle- class home life, the harder the knot of the mystery is to undo.

There are, however, two loose ends that allow themselves to be unpicked, and which offer the patient student of the macabre an eventual solution. The first is 'Satan's' secret reliance on a notorious 'drug', the second his religious beliefs. To take the second point first, as being more fundamental to an understanding of the man's mental con- dition, the chippy slavemaster has always dwelt in his public utterances on images of mechanical efficiency, new plant, dynamic power tools for building, smashing, breaking through and bridging. Many of the 'Satan's Slaves' group have caught the same patterns of speech, but with the essential difference that in the leader's case the pulsing web of shimmering machinery is seen uniquely from the point of view of the central control panel, or more alarmingly, as a mere extension of the central control panel itself.

This weird crystallisation of the hippy vision, like the formalised dogmas of other ecstatic apergus of 'what it's all about', demands both a magnetic and quasi-divine central figure, and the rigorous imposition of such a vision, if necessary by force, on those unenlightened enough not to share. it. Ac- cording to those of his 'Slaves' who have already confessed, 'Satan' is still unsure of his own true identity, but knows that he is either Christ—peace, compassion, clemency —or Satan—chaos, armed force, violence= murder etc. In recent times the latter persona appears to have taken over entirely, but it is interesting to note that the divine assurance of his mission never seems to have deserted him.

It is unquestionably this confidence and assurance that shackle his half-crazed `Slaves' to him with links of such mettle. That they should willingly submit themselves to his megalomaniac vision of society, or, worse, offer themselves as mute instruments in the depraved and bloody struggle to build such a nightmare empire, is otherwise beyond the bounds of belief. To bring, in his `Christ' persona, his vision of dynamic peace and efficient harmony to fruition, the hippy Rasputin clearly realised that the 'Satan' persona must first be given free rein, and it was this argument that clearly most im- pressed his followers at a rational level. Africans who did not share his special vision of the world, and who did not wish to remain part of a prosperous federation forming one of the foundations of 'Satan's' economic beliefs, but in which they feared with reason that they might be massacred for their race, must in 'Satan's' view be murdered and starved and bombed until they saw the light.

Similarly, other Christ-like principles associated with the cult to which he belongs must be laid aside temporarily until such time as they can be triumphantly reassumed in a changed world order, where the Satanic machine functions dynamically and efficiently, and the last squeak of human pro- test has been oiled away: That bourgeois society should have awoken so late, if not to the outrage of the 'oil murders', to the same insane menace that threatens them, is perhaps understandable. The image of the self-styled left wing `chippy' betraying his. principles, snug and smug in his meaningless attitudes of fashionable protest, shunning the crude commercialism of his political critics, has for so long been a stock music hall joke, that the idea of a. mass murderer emerging from their red-nosed ranks was simply unthinkable.

Nor would it have been without the drug Lsd. The man they call 'Satan's' dependence on this is often overlooked, but it must be remembered that for the last five years the `chippies' have had access to almost inex- haustible supplies of the drug, that they have in fact exhausted them, and that they have even obtained further stocks on credit from sources abroad. In the grip of the wild hallucinations that such a drug makes possi- ble, 'Satan' has become, like all addicts. desperate for more and more of that substance with which, as he believes, he can release his fullest powers and build his fondest dreams. It is tragic that the brutality of the 'oil murders' was not dictated, as :Satan' would have his slaves believe, by missionary zeal for mystic, efficient unity but by a crude lust for Lsd.