Vereeniging - Police found the burnt body of a man in an open field in Lakeside, Vereeniging, on Wednesday morning.

He was missing his genitals, and the back of his skull was cut “like a doctor (was) going to open it”, said police spokesman Captain Fikile Funda.

Funda added that he did not know whether the victim’s brain had been taken out.

Police suspect the unknown man, in his late twenties, was the victim of a ritualistic murder, and the perpetrators burnt his body to cover up the crime, Funda said.

Ritualistic killings and organ trafficking are common across South Africa. There are anywhere between 150 and 300 muti murders in South Africa annually, according to a 2006 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report.

In a muti murder, body parts are removed from a living person, sold, and used for medicinal purposes. Bodies are sold for as little as R10 000, according to a 2010 probe conducted by Mozambique’s Human Rights League.

Male genitals, breasts, hearts, fingers and tongues are the most commonly trafficked body parts for muti, according to the league.

In South Africa, there is no distinct charge for a muti killing. Perpetrators are put in jail for murder, sometimes abduction, and are often given life sentences.

Police have asked anyone with information to come forward.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, Vereeniging police are seeking help in identifying the body of a white man in his early thirties found in the Vaal River near Spider Valley on Tuesday. His body, wrapped in plastic, was in a badly decomposed state. He was wearing a jacket, jeans and sneakers and had a Nokia cellphone in his jacket.

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The Star