I went into Devilsdorp not knowing what to expect. Not knowing the hardships suffered or the trauma experienced, and off the bat this is where Devilsdorp succeeds – the series is gripping, not overly romanticised or sensationalised, respectful of its victims, guided by facts but not downplaying the extent of the horror. Translation: you need to start binging Devilsdorp right away.
If you have no idea what the series is about, the premise is simple as Devilsdorp follows the Electus per Deus cult whose reign of terror cost several people their lives between 2012 and 2016. It is not only the factual base of the series, or shocking content that will keep you glued to the screen. The series was beautifully shot with well thought out interstitial cuts that really brings the whole production together. It looks and plays very sleek, reminiscent of some of the best Netflix / HBO documentaries.
We were lucky enough to be able to check-in with Jana Marx, reporter on the case and author of Afspraak met Moord: In die kake van die Krugersdorp-kultus, who also narrates the series, and ask her a few burning questions we had on the series.
*Spoiler alert! Head back to this section once you’ve finished Devilsdorp on Showmax.
9Lives: Except for being assigned as the reporter on this case, what fascinated you most about it and kept you working on it even after the case was concluded?
Jana: At that stage, I was assigned as Network 24’s court journalist on the case, but my background is in theology which I studied at the University of the Free State. When I read the indictment the night before the case went to court, I realised there was more to this case than meets the eye.
I realised that Cecilia Steyn was twisting existing Christian and Satanic principles to fit her purpose. The ‘Christian’ and ‘Satanic’ ideologies found in this story is Cecilia’s version thereof that she very directly used to manipulate people.
9Lives: So many lives were touched by this evil that infiltrated their entire lives that it sounds like something thought up by Hollywood rather than something that transpired in Krugersdorp, South Africa. Do you believe that justice was served? Or are there some that you feel got off too easy? Or maybe the opposite?
Jana: I think the fact that they were awarded life sentences does translate to some kind of justice. But maybe I interpret justice differently than the victims’ families would. Some of the family members told me that the court case was just another chapter and although they are glad that Cecilia and her crew are behind bars, they’ll never be able to get closure as nothing can bring them back.
I do however think that the sentencing was fair. I have a lot of respect for Judge Ellem Jacob Francis that presided on the case and he also admitted during the sentencing hearing that it gave him countless sleepless nights.
The cult members that committed the murders are all behind bars. I am sure that no one got away or is still roaming free as they testified against the other members, making sure that everyone goes down together.
I do however still have some questions about some policemens’ involvement and questions on how deliberate negligence led to the cult only being caught in 2016. Two members of the police force are currently being investigated by the anti-corruption unit, as well as two others that had personal ties to Cecilia Steyn.
9Lives: You spent months in the court reporting on the case. Can you describe the experience? It is clear from the series that there were quite a few surprises in court, did you ever suspect that it would go down as it had?
Jana: For me it was amazing seeing a case through from beginning to end as this doesn’t happen very often in digital journalism. Thanks to the great readership we had, I spent a whole of 60 days in court!
There were quite a few surprises. One of them being that three of the accused (Zak, Cecilia and Marcel) who were great friends at first, grew to be enemies by the end. As they started to realise that they would not be able to get out of trouble, they started throwing each other under the bus. They even started sitting further and further away from each other on the accusers’ bench.
We were very surprised when Cecila’s lawyer announced that Marinda (who had then already been sentenced) wanted to come testify for her case. It was clear from the start that they meticulously planned it, as the testimony sketched Marinda as leader of the cult, not Cecilia. According to Marinda, Cecilia has done nothing wrong.
The biggest surprise, of course, was when Marcel decided to tell the truth. Cecilia and Zak were just as surprised as the rest of the crowd in court that day. Marcel, who had always denied everything like Cecilia told her, decided to tell everything that she knew. Although it was too late for Marcel to evoke any sympathy from the judge, her actions did help finish the puzzle.
9Lives: Lastly, what is your take on the series? It must have been so exciting to be involved but the topic is so macabre that it is a bit bittersweet
Jana: It was really a big privilege to be involved. As I reported on the case and wrote the book, the story became a part of me and Devilsdorp is another way for me that justice for the victims prevailed in the end. Martin Luther King Jnr. said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” The Krugersdorp murders or the Appointment murders, matters a lot to me. With this series the victims are immortalised in a very unique manner and not just dissapearing in the murder statistics of our country.
As far as the production is concerned, I am extremely impressed. As a journalist and writer I am satisfied that the content is factual. And as a fan of international true crime documentaries, I think that this series definitely competes on their level. I am immensely proud to be associated with it.