Dozens of men detained after the alleged gang rape of eight women during a music video shoot in South Africa are set to return to court on Wednesday as police make new arrests of accused artisanal miners area of generalized violence.
Tuesday’s arrests near Krugersdorp, a town northwest of Johannesburg, bring the total number of people detained since the attack to more than 120.
However, none of the men and boys arrested have been charged with sexual assault or rape. Police said they hoped DNA testing would allow them in the coming days to link some of those detained to the alleged gang rape.
The men due in court on Wednesday, believed to be miners working in South Africa’s dangerous abandoned pits, are to be charged with possession of firearms and illegal mining.
On Monday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa implored members of the public to come forward to help find the perpetrators of last Thursday’s attack.
“These horrific acts of brutality are an affront to the right of women and girls to live and work in freedom and safety. We call on communities to work with the police to ensure that these criminals are apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.
The attack took place at an abandoned mine in Krugersdorp where the 22-person video crew, including 12 women, were filming when they were attacked “by a group of armed men dressed in blankets”, according to a statement from the police to the Associated Press.
“The suspects ordered everyone to lie down and raped eight of the women and robbed each of their belongings before fleeing the scene,” Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner Lt. Gen. Elias said. Mawela. Police were investigating 32 counts of rape, he added.
The attack has once again shone a spotlight on the chronic problem of gender-based violence in South Africa. In the first three months of this year, at least 10,818 cases of rape were reported, an increase of 13.7% compared to the same period in 2021. Far from all of these incidents are reported and the actual number would be much higher.
In Krugersdorp, there have been complaints that the police and local authorities have not done enough to protect women and girls from crime. On Friday, after police made the first arrests, a resident was filmed haranguing Police Minister Bheki Cele about the security situation in West Village, part of Krugersdorp.
“It’s the norm, it’s what we experience every day,” the woman said. “West Village is under siege…Even during the day, you cannot walk around freely without being accompanied. You cannot go to the store and buy bread unaccompanied.
Most of the anger is directed at minors, or zama-zamas, who come to South Africa from countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe to try to make a living in the country’s thousands of disused gold mines. They are accused by locals of crimes such as assault and sexual assault. Human rights groups warn that they themselves are the target of entrenched xenophobia.
Over 80 zama-zamas arrested on Friday and Saturday appeared in Krugersdorp Magistrates Court on Monday when it emerged that around 20 of them were minors who should be tried in the juvenile justice system. Outside the court, hundreds of people – including from the anti-migrant group Operation Dudula – staged a protest accusing the police of not doing enough to maintain order.
Tuesday’s arrests appeared to be a crackdown in response to general allegations of criminality against the zama-zamas rather than an operation specifically related to gang rape.
Women’s rights groups expressed outrage at the attack. Thandiwe McCloy, on behalf of the NGO People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), called for more investment in programs targeting men and their “negative attitudes towards women”, as well as a toughening of the judicial system.
“We need to ensure there are more rape convictions to send a strong message to potential perpetrators that they will be punished for their crimes,” she said.
“Only 8.6% of rape cases in South Africa result in a conviction. The judicial system is very inefficient and there is often a lack of proper investigations and delays in arrest or no arrests for perpetrators of gender-based violence. It often takes time for cases to come to trial, delaying survivors in their healing process and moving on with their lives. The huge backlog of DNA causes cases to take a long time to be finalized.
The education system also has a role to play, she said: “There needs to be more education from the early childhood developmental level about the importance of gender equality. It is important to socialize children so that they know that boys are no better than girls and that they are equal, from an early age.
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