Over 80 men arrested at an abandoned mining site have been charged to court on Monday following gang rape and robbery of eight women near the disused mine.
The women were a video production crew in the South African town of Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
The suspects are allegedly illegal miners known as zama-zamas who dig for gold in the Johannesburg area’s many closed mine shafts.
According to local reports, most of the illegal miners are foreigners. The zama-zama gangs of illegal miners are also said to be culpable for widespread crime in the area.
The gang rapes occurred when a crew filming a music video at one of the abandoned mines was attacked by armed men on Thursday last week, according to police.
“The crew of 22 people — 12 women and 10 men — were busy filming a music video when they were allegedly attacked by a group of armed men clad in blankets,” Police Commissioner for Gauteng province Lt. Gen. Elias Mawela said in a statement.
“The suspects ordered everyone to lay down and proceeded to rape eight of the women and robbed everyone of their belongings before fleeing the scene,” he said.
The crew was mugged and all their video equipment stolen. Police are investigating 32 counts of rape, he said.
Laboratory studies of DNA samples from the raped women will be used to identify perpetrators of the rapes, National Minister of Police Bheki Cele said on Monday.
Others arrested are expected to face additional charges of illegal immigration and illegal mining.
More than 300 people demonstrated outside the Krugersdorp Magistrates Court on Monday to express the community’s rage over the sexual assaults.
News of the gang rapes and robbery has angered community and women’s organisations in the area, who have complained that such incidents are rife around Krugersdorp.
“We are going to demand that the police station should be placed under administration because the community has reported many crimes committed by the zama-zamas but nothing has been done,” said Zandile Dabula, secretary-general of Operation Dudula, an organisation that protests against illegal immigrants in South Africa. The organisation was part of the Monday protest outside the Krugersdorp courthouse.
Dabula said it is clear that the state is failing in its crime-prevention responsibilities in this area.
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