South African police arrest more than 120 after a gang rape of eight women

South African police arrest more than 120 after a gang rape of eight women

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Dozens of men arrested after the alleged gang rape of eight women during a music video shoot in South Africa are expected to go back to court on Wednesday as police arrested more artisanal miners blamed by local communities for widespread violence.

The arrests on Tuesday near Krugersdorp, a town northwest of Johannesburg, bring the total number of people arrested since the attack to more than 120.

However, none of the men and boys arrested have reportedly been charged with sexual assault or rape. Police have said they hope DNA testing in the coming days will enable them to link some of those arrested to the alleged gang rape.

The men, who are expected to appear in court on Wednesday and are believed to be miners working in South Africa’s dangerous abandoned mines, are reported to face charges including possession of weapons and illegal mining, according to reports.

On Monday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged the public to come forward to help find those who carried out last Thursday’s attack.

“These horrific brutalities are an attack on the rights of women and girls to live and work in freedom and security. We urge communities to work with the police to ensure these criminals are apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.

The attack took place at an abandoned mine in Krugersdorp, where the video crew of 22 people, including 12 women, filmed being attacked “by a group of armed men in blankets,” according to a police statement to the Associated Press.

“The suspects ordered everyone to lie down and raped eight of the women and robbed all of their belongings before fleeing the scene,” Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner Lt. Gen Elias Mawela. Police were investigating 32 cases of rape, he added.

The attack has once again spotlighted the chronic problem of gender-based violence in South Africa. At least 10,818 rape cases were reported in the first three months of this year, a 13.7% increase over the same period in 2021. Far from all such incidents are reported, and the actual number is likely to be much higher.

An anti-foreigner group protests outside Krugersdorp Magistrates' Court, South Africa

An anti-immigrant group is protesting outside the courthouse in Krugersdorp, South Africa, where more than 80 men were arrested Monday after the alleged gang rape and armed robbery took place. Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

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 addressing Police Minister Bheki Cele about the security situation in the West Village, part of Krugersdorp.

“It’s the norm, we experience it every day,” the woman said. “West Village is under siege… Even during the day one cannot roam freely unescorted. You cannot go to the store and buy bread unaccompanied.”

Most of the anger is directed at the miners zama-zamas, who come to South Africa from countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe to try to earn a living in the country’s thousands of disused gold mines. They are held responsible by the local population for crimes such as muggings and sexual assaults. Human rights groups warn that they themselves are becoming the target of deep-seated xenophobia.

More than 80 zama-zamas Those arrested on Friday and Saturday appeared at Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Monday, when it emerged that around 20 youths were due to be tried. Outside the court, hundreds of people – including members of the anti-migrant group Operation Dudula – protested, accusing the police of not doing enough to maintain order.

Tuesday’s arrests appeared to be a crackdown in response to widespread crime allegations leveled against the US zama-zamas rather than an operation specifically linked to gang rape.

Women’s rights groups have expressed outrage at the attack. Thandiwe McCloy, speaking for the NGO People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa), called for more investment in programs targeting men and their “negative attitudes towards women” and for a tougher justice system.

“We need to make sure there are more rape convictions to send a strong message to potential perpetrators that they will be punished for their crimes,” she said.

Related: Conflicts are leading to a global increase in sexual violence against women

“Only 8.6% of rape cases in South Africa result in a conviction. The judicial system is highly inefficient and perpetrators of gender-based violence often lack adequate investigation and delays in apprehension or no apprehension at all. Cases often take a long time to reach court, setting survivors back in their healing process and allowing them to get on with their lives. The huge DNA backlog means cases take a long time to close.”

The education system also plays a role, she said: “There needs to be more education from the early developmental level about the importance of gender equality. It is important to socialize children to know that boys are no better than girls and that they are equal from an early age.”

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