Maputo — The four people accused by the Mozambican police of using a supposedly "highly corrosive substance" in an attempt to sabotage the Cahora Bassa dam are in fact members of a lunatic fringe group called "Orgonise Africa".
The four have now been named as Georg Ritschi (a German architect), Carlos Silva (a Portuguese hotelier), Tino Phutheso (a Botsanan aircraft pilot), and Joseph Ngusato (a South African self-styled "prophet").
There was nothing clandestine about this group's visit to the Cahora Bassa lake. They advertised it on their Internet websites, where they called the journey "Operation Paradise".
"Want to come on our next Zambezi expedition, April 2009?", asked Georg Ritschi on an "Orgonise Africa" blog. "Our next big expedition will be the continuation of our last great water gifting effort on the lower Zambezi", said Ritschi.
What can they possibly be talking about? Orgonise? Gifting?
It turns out that Orgonise Africa is a band of dedicated followers of the Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, who died in an American jail in 1956. Reich did some valuable work on human sexuality in the early part of his career, but in his later years switched his political allegiance from left to right, and showed signs of mental illness and paranoia.
He claimed that he had discovered a universal form of energy which he called orgone. This energy - undetected by science both then and in the 52 years since Reich's death - was responsible for everything from the weather to gravity and the formation of galaxies. Reich built machines called orgone accumulators which were supposed to concentrate orgone energy. This would be a good thing since, according to Reich, illness and diseases are caused by insufficient orgone.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) correctly described the orgone accumulators as fraudulent, banned their sale and outlawed all "orgone therapy". Which was why, after he defied the injunction obtained by the FDA, Reich ended up in jail.
Reich's sexual libertarianism, his heterodox scientific and medical theories, and his apparent persecution by US government agencies turned him into something of a father figure for the 1960s "counter-culture", and for subsequent "New Age" cults. One of these, headed by a couple called Don and Carol Croft, spawned Orgonise Africa.
The theory espoused by this group is that everything wrong with the planet is due to a lack of orgone. To set matters right, the dedicated followers of Wilhelm Reich, engage in "orgone gifting". This involves dumping "gifts" of a substance called orgonite into the place - in this case, Cahora Bassa lake - that is to be cured of its orgone deficiency.
So that is what the four arrested "saboteurs" were doing - heaving lumps of orgonite from a boat into the lake.
Could this do any damage to the dam or to the lake itself? Helpfully, enthusiasts for orgonite tell us how to make the stuff on their Internet sites. It is just a mixture of fiberglass resin, metal shavings, and the inevitable New Age crystal (as any New Age guru will tell you, crystals have immense and mysterious healing powers).
What kind of metal? A site called organite.info tells us "Quarter-inch-wide aluminum curls are very common and very effective for use in orgonite, but any kind of copper, iron, brass (including brassed aluminum), bronze, nickel or even steel shavings will work fine. Just bring a bucket and some work gloves to a local machine shop and ask them if you can fill your bucket with metal shavings".
As for the crystal "Any funky, ugly, smokey pieces of quartz will work perfectly for orgonite field devices. You can usually find this grade of quartz crystal very inexpensively at most decent gem and mineral shops".
None of this stuff is remotely corrosive. Fish in the lake might object to a mouthful or fibre-glass, quartz and steel shavings, but it could not conceivably do any damage to the dam wall or turbines.
In short, orgonite is worthless trash, and the only crime the four seem to have committed is that of dumping rubbish in the lake.
Doubtless the arrests of the four will confirm Orgonise Africa in its conspiratorial mindset. They believe that the world is run by a sinister, occult elite, which they sometimes refer to as the Illuminati. The real illuminati were an 18th century German secret society, but the term has become abused (sometimes with anti-semitic overtones) to refer to an imaginary sinister cabal that is supposed to be manipulating world politics.
According to the Orgonise Africa website "an effort for total control and domination by a small "elite" of barren entropy minded people is being carried forward on all levels of human existence: Spiritual, mental, material, financial, political and military. The foundations of this "elite's" hypnotic spell over humankind are to be sought in its occult, ritualistic-satanic orientation and secret society network".
They resurrect the hoary claim that the pyramid shown on the back of the dollar bill is a "symbol of occult rule" and claim that a conspiracy is afoot "to move the world from a polycentric world of diversity to a 'One World Government' in a 'New World Order'".
They don't like cell phones either, and claim that "the ubiquitous microwave transmitters, sold to the populace as necessary for cell phone communications play a major role in the undeclared war against humankind".
Orgonise Africa declares that its mission is "to reverse the negative effects of entropic technology and secret bio-chemical warfare" on Africa. Its strategy is to lay down organite and orgone devices so as to "neutralise at least most of the entropy transmitters in one country and other obvious sources of negative energy such as battle fields, ritual murder sites, prisons, police stations and Masonic lodges".
Two things need to be said about this. First, it is nonsense. There is no such thing as "negative energy", just as there is no such thing as orgone. Equally imaginary are entropy transmitters and entropic technology. (Entropy is the scientific term for the amount of disorder in a system. There are no technologies designed to increase entropy). As for "secret bio-chemical warfare", there hasn't been any in Africa since the end of apartheid.
Secondly it is fairly harmless nonsense. The only damage done by meaningless waffle about "entropic transmitters" and "negative energy" is to the credibility of those who push such pseudo-scientific garbage. It has no capacity to destroy dams or anything else in the real world.