News24

New-age 'saboteurs' freed

2009-06-14 15:22

Maputo -  Four men accused of sabotaging one of Africa's main hydroelectric dams were released after testing supported their claim that they acted as part of a new-age movement, local media and a family member said on Saturday.

"They were released yesterday (Friday)," Friederike Ritschl, the wife of one of those arrested, told AFP from Johannesburg.

"Thank God they are not in that awful prison any more. The prosecutor admitted that he can't keep the charges of sabotage."

The men were arrested in Mozambique in April as they dumped a substance into the reservoir that feeds the Cahora Bassa dam, one of Africa's largest hydroelectric projects and a major power source for southern Africa.

Authorities accused the men - a South Africa, a Botswanan, a German and a Portuguese - of putting harmful chemicals in the water to corrode the dam's structure, O Pais newspaper reported.

However, the men said they were not saboteurs but members of a group called Orgonise Africa, a new-age movement whose goal is to improve the continent's spiritual energy by disseminating a substance called orgonite, the report said.

After sending the substance to laboratories in Mozambique, South Africa and Brazil, Mozambican authorities were unable to prove otherwise, according to O Pais.

The newspaper quoted the prosecutor's office as saying the results of the testing led to the decision to release the four.

According to Don Croft, one of the founders of the movement, orgonite is a homemade mixture of resin, crystals and metal shavings and possesses a positive energy that facilitates environmental healing.

In an e-mail message, Croft called the group's work "essentially harmless", and said: "The only crimes we conceivably commit could sometimes be called 'littering'."