Durban - Three suspected cannibals have been arrested in the rural KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Apparently one of them walked into the Estcourt police station on Friday night, told the officers on duty that he was “tired of eating human flesh” and subsequently produced part of a human leg and a hand.
It is understood that investigations led police to a house in nearby Rensburgdrift, where more human remains were found.
The man who had gone to the police station was arrested.
A second suspect was arrested in Estcourt and a third suspect - thought to be a nyanga (medicine man) - was arrested in the Amangwe area.
The three are all in their thirties.
They allegedly killed a woman, cut her up and ate parts of her body.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele on Sunday confirmed that the men were arrested on charges relating to murder and cannibalism. She said they would appear in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court today.
The former head of the SAPS specialised Investigative Psychology Section, Professor Gérard Labuschagne, said on Sunday that it was unlikely this was a muti- related crime. He said the allegations of cannibalism did not fit the profile of this.
“It’s very rare and unusual to get a case where people are actually eating human body parts - animal bites are often mistaken for human bites. But when people are eating human body parts, it’s more likely got to do with a mental health issue.”
Labuschagne said people who ate human body parts were often in the throes of psychotic episodes.
“They are usually experiencing audio and/or visual hallucinations - hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there - and having bizarre thoughts like ‘I must eat this body part as it will make me powerful’.”
Labuschagne said the suggestion that this was a group crime was strange: “You do sometimes get a group of people, where one is mentally ill - sort of like a cult leader - and his followers have dependency issues. It’s very, very rare though.”
This is not the first instance of cannibalism in the province. In 2003 a man was arrested after police discovered a cooking pot full of body parts near his home in Esikhawini, Richards Bay.
And in 2001, then 35-year-old Patrick Msane was caught eating human flesh on the Nkonka Reserve on the KZN South Coast.
Cannibalism in itself is not a crime in South Africa, but murder, mutilating a corpse and being in possession of human tissue are all criminal offences.