Early last Sunday morning residents from nearby South End were awakened by “strange noises” coming from the valley.
According to reports a group of about 15 people – including men, women and children – clad in white robes were dancing and chanting around a “massive fire” in the valley near Fort Frederick.
One resident, who asked not be named for fear the group might be “satanists”, said the group appeared to be in a trance and was praying in a “strange language”.
Several residents, including some from the Bridgewater townhouse complex in South End, called the police and, while the group “quietened down for a while”, they later became rowdy again.
The resident said he saw a police vehicle stop about 50 metres from the group, switch on its lights and sirens and then depart.
Captain Rassie Erasmus of the Flying Squad confirmed that one of the unit’s vehicles had responded to a complaint early on Sunday. He said the responding officer had noted the activity as “a possible satanic ritual”.
However, Erasmus said, no action was taken as the group had not harmed any humans or animals.
They also were not trespassing, as the valley was a public area.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said it was illegal to make a fire in the Baakens Valley as it was a protected area. However, by the time police arrived at the scene the fire had already been put out.
The exasperated resident decided to go personally and ask the group to quieten down.
He said they were so engrossed in their activities that they only noticed him when he touched one of them on the arm.
“They were praying in a weird language and seemed to be in a trance.”
Their white robes, he said, had an emblem on that “looked like a combination of a cross and a star”.
He said although the chanting had initially sounded violent, the group was quite calm.
When he told them they were disturbing the peace, they said they had done “this kind of thing” on six occasions and wanted to know why he was only complaining now.
“I think we can expect them when the next full moon appears.”
Another resident, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said he had heard the noises several times in recent months and had informed the police and the fire department about it.
Theodore Petrus, an anthropology lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, said the full moon was significant as “there are many cultures, sects and religious groups that attach ritual significance to natural phenomena such as a full moon”.
However, the gathering was not necessary sinister. Petrus said several Zionist sects used white robes, although the symbolism described on the robes was unfamiliar to him.
He said the group could have been engaging in a religious practice.
“Just as the police would not enter a church during a normal service, I suppose they applied the same principle in this case.
“More conclusive evidence is required before any accusations are made about the group being involved in any illegal or violent activities.
“The chanting may have sounded violent, but it may be that the group was using loud intonation as part of their expression during the ritual.”
Weekend Post approached several Christian churches, mainstream and otherwise, in an effort to find out who was behind the moonlight gatherings.
All denied being involved in the rituals. Mashato Moshaba, a national spokesman for the Zion Christian Church, said it was definitely not a Zionist gatherin