South African true-crime documentary series to stream

By Gen Terblanche9 May 2023

South African true-crime documentary series to stream

The title of the new true-crime documentary anthology series Imibuzo refers to the questions we all have once the bodies are buried and the legal tug-of-war has ended. And if you’re looking for answers, Showmax has a library of true-crime shows and movies to help you to understand some of South Africa’s most shocking cases – because there’s a lot more to the story than you saw on the news.

Imibuzo | First on Showmax

What happened behind closed doors between Flabba and his girlfriend Sindisiwe Manqele (who walked free in 2023 after serving eight years in prison)? What happened in the run-up to the murder-for-hire of Tshegofatso Pule, who was eight months pregnant when she died? Who protected Pastor Tim Omotoso, even as he groomed, raped and trafficked young women?

There’s always more to the story. Imibuzo’s producers reached out to survivors, families, loved ones and even the perpetrators of South Africa’s most shocking crimes, along with the journalists who’ve covered the stories, and members of the justice system. They picked through the facts and emotions, and they’re bringing us answers as they reenact the victims’ final, terrifying moments. Sometimes, though, as we hear from survivors, the only truth that Imibuzo can offer us is that no amount of answers can heal the damage and pain left by violent crime.

Devilsdorp | Showmax Original

This four-episode Showmax Original true-crime documentary series explores Krugersdorp Satanic Panic-driven serial killings that took place between 2012 and 2016. Perspective on the case and the ability to dedicate four hours to analysing its twists and turns make this a must for anyone wanting to take a deep dive into the psychology of these small town cult killings.

Find out how Cecilia Steyn created her Electus per Deus cult, built connections with her five closest allies by begging for their help, then turned their superstitions and need for purpose against them, manipulating them into murder for her own financial gain. If you want to dive even deeper into how Cecilia weaponised religion, or how children were made to kill, there’s an official Showmax podcast, too. PS: Private Ben Booysen, who’s a central voice in Devilsdorp, is one of four PIs discussing their cases in true crime series Privaat Spuurders, also on Showmax.

Strangers You Know

Strangers You Know episode 8 on Showmax

South Africa has a gender based violence problem. This true-crime documentary series spotlights the impact of crime on victims, survivors and loved ones. The series is sensitively told from the perspective of the investigating officers, family members, forensic pathologists, legal experts – with the intent of restoring the humanity of the victims that their attackers tried to strip from them, physically and mentally. It’s a facet of the story that’s often lost when the victim’s private business becomes fuel for scandal and sensationalism.

Cases include the torture and murder of same sex couple Anisha and Joey van Niekerk by the man with the snake tattoo, a family’s two-year search for their beloved Palesa Madiba, who lay buried in the back yard, and a mother’s search for justice after her daughter Anene Booysen whispered her killer’s name with her dying breath.

PS: Violence against young South African women is also explored in the documentary film Alison, the story of how Alison Botha survived being raped, and stabbed 60 times, reclaimed her body and is spreading her message of hope. And in The Last Blue Ride, survivor Cheslin Marsh reveals what his life has been like since he witnessed the brutal rape and murder of his friend Hannah Cornelius, when the two were kidnapped and left for dead by members of the Numbers gang in 2017.

Op Seer Se Spoor

Op Seer se Spoor is on Showmax

Over three seasons, presenter and Kuier magazine editor Ernusta Maralack acts as our guide to crime that shook South African communities in the Western Cape. Ernusta revisits the scene, sometimes reconnecting with the survivors and their families she spoke to at the time of the crime. In this empathetic and moving Afrikaans series, Ernusta aims to give crime a human voice, and to explore the social conditions that become a breeding ground for despair, violence and death.

In Season 2, episode 2, Ernusta talks about one survivor story that impacted her deeply. For the first time in the show, she met with twins Yaqoob and Yusuf, family murder survivors whose mother Aneesa Arrison tried to kill all three of her sons before killing herself in 2017. The twins were too young to talk to the press when she was originally covering the story but now, in the episode, they help Ernusta to fill in the blanks of who Aneesa was, and what was happening behind closed doors.

Huisgenoot Ware Lewensdramas

Huisgenoot Ware Lewensdramas is on Showmax

The grand dame of South African popular magazines has always brought us breaking news of our most sensational crime cases, along with the dramatic real-life stories of fallen public figures like Joost van der Westhuizen and Hansie Cronje. Over eight seasons to date, you can take a deep dive into their stories on Showmax.

With all the access to the reporters’ untold stories and unpublished pictures, along with in-depth knowledge of the cases from court reporters, and access to investigators, this is the ultimate true-crime series to get you into the know. Explore the monstrous tale of pedophile serial killer Gert van Rooyen and his murder-suicide with his partner Jeoy Haarhof in 1990, or get to grips with the modern murder of Annie Liebenberg and Michael Zantow, whose killers, Stanley Lingena and Sithembiso Hlongwane, were sentenced to life in prison in April 2023. Huisgenoot Ware Lewensdramas has the story.

PS: Huisgenoot Ware Lewensdramas: Vlees en Bloed, also on Showmax, examines true-crime stories of family murder.


Doreen Morris in Vermis is on Showmax

Want to turn your true-crime obsession to good use? Over two seasons to date, Doreen Morris has been piecing together South Africa’s missing persons cases. In this Afrikaans series she meets with family and friends to discuss what people were doing, and what they looked like before they vanished without a trace, along with exploring any final communications. The series has partnered with private investigators to further the ongoing searches, and there are active social media pages where you can leave information. If there’s a message of hope for trafficked, troubled survivors who’re still out there, it’s that their families have not given up on them.

In Season 2, episode 2 for example, Doreen meets with the family of Desiree “Dessie” Reid, who vanished on 27 January 2000. This month, on 27 May, Dessie’s loved ones will be among the thousands of South Africans wearing the Green Ribbon of Hope as a symbol of support for missing people’s families like hers, and for the missing themselves.

Stella Murders | Showmax Original

This brand-new Showmax original documentary film from Devilsdorp co-creator David Enright digs into the staged suicides of small town schoolgirls Sharnelle Hough (17) and Marna Engelbrecht (16), who were found dead in their boarding school in 2018. David is part of the growing movement to swing true-crime coverage of murder away from sensationalising the killer, to breathing life back into its victims and their communities, and contextualising each case until we’re able to dismantle the kinds of social environments that breed killers.

In a traumatised country, a story that tells us that the victims of crime matter, and that their loved ones’ pain matters, can be an opportunity for everyone to heal a little.

Ask the experts

Looking for a more forensic approach? Professionals in the legal system also have their say about crime on Showmax.

  • In Afrikaans true-crime reality series Die Staat Teen, public prosecutors go into detail about the challenging cases in their careers.
  • Senior forensic pathologist Dr Hestelle van Staden takes us into the intricacies of how science has played a key role in solving murder cases – including the Middelburg Poisoning and the mysterious death of filmmaker Carlos Carvalho in which the killer was a giraffe – in true-crime series Outopsie.
  • Thirteen-part true crime series Kriminele Meesterbrein explores how detectives, forensic experts and pathologists solved cases like the double homicide of Brett Goldin and Richard Bloom.
  • And four private investigators – Ben Booyens, Wendy Pascoe, Luke Enslin and Odette van Staden, discuss their career-making cases and techniques in Privaat Speurders.