By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi
A 17-year-old tourist, believed to be German, was allegedly gang-raped at a backpackers' hostel in Observatory, Johannesburg, when five armed robbers pounced on her and 14 other tourists on Saturday night.
One of the tourists as well as the manager of Backpackers Lodge in Innes Street were slightly injured when the robbers pistol-whipped them.
The violent attack cut short the holiday of 13 of the 15 young visitors staying at the lodge.
They immediately made arrangements to fly back to their countries. By Sunday, most had already left. The tourists were from Europe, mainly Germany, and from countries in Central and South America.
According to the co-owner of the lodge, Bushy Durr, whose head and fingers were injured, the young victim was with 14 other foreign tourists at the Backpackers Lodge when they were surprised by five armed men late on Saturday.
Durr said last night: "The backpackers were enjoying themselves when about five armed men entered the lodge. They said it was a holdup, and then marched us into one of the rooms. We were ordered to lie on the floor."
The robbers pistol-whipped Durr and another backpacker, while saying that anyone who dared lift his or her head would be shot.
It was the second time the hostel had been robbed in a month, and this weekend's attack was a nightmare for the girl, said Durr.
"She was taken to another room. After the robbers left, she came in crying hysterically. Her clothes had been ripped off and she had been raped.
"We tried to calm her down. She was taken to a clinic and given AZT, and was then discharged.
"I don't care much about what happened to me - I'm more concerned about the girl, who was traumatised and hysterical. This ordeal will haunt her for the rest of her life," said Durr.
The robbery was interrupted by a ringing telephone and, in a state of panic, the robbers made off with R4 000 in cash, cellphones, two cameras worth R10 000 each, credit cards and a tape recorder.
The girl, with 12 other tourists, who still had another few weeks on their holiday to go, took the first available flight home on Saturday night.
"They didn't want to stay here anymore, they just wanted to get out of the country," said Durr.
"This incident has done irreparable damage to the image of the country's tourism," he added.
Of the 15, only two British tourists stayed behind, and plan to complete their holiday. Brothers Nicholas and Robert Hunt said they had been in the country for about 12 hours when the incident happened.
"I thought it was a joke at first because we've never had guns pointed at us," said elder brother Nicholas.
On realising the robbery was real, he feared the worst because the robbers were getting agitated.
"We came here after hearing all sorts of stories about Johannesburg, but we thought that crime happened all over the world."
Despite what happened, he believed they were "just unlucky on the night".
German embassy spokesperson Peter Woeste said he had not been told of the attack, but said it was tragic that this had happened. He said tourists were warned to be wary of visiting certain areas in Johannesburg.
There were also reports that a 17-year-old girl was gang-raped during the robbery, but police spokesman Superintendent Chris Wilken was unable to confirm this on Monday morning.
Wilken said although the co-owner of the hostel told The Star that one of the women had been raped, he had made no such statement to the police.