Pretoria - As many as 82 illegal miners plying their trade in abandoned mines around West Village, Krugersdorp, have been arrested by the police as they investigate 32 counts of rape and multiple counts of robbery.
The suspects were held over the ambush of 10 men and 12 women, aged 19 to 35, who were at the West Village mine dump to shoot a music video.
Police acted swiftly to arrest the suspects, who allegedly ambushed and raped the group after the incident on Thursday.
Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the crime scene on Friday followed by senior policing officials, including police commissioner Fannie Masemola.
According to initial information on the attack, the crew were filming the video when about 10 men wearing Basotho blankets, balaclavas and mining-type overalls approached them.
The men allegedly started firing in the air and ordered everyone to lie down, then searched everyone, robbing them of their clothes, cellphones, rings, passports, watches, handbags, cash, cameras and other valuables to the value of R1.5 million.
After this, the suspects allegedly whistled and another 10 men wearing Basotho blankets and balaclavas joined them. They then proceeded to take the women one by one into the bush and gang-raped them.
In some instances, some of the victims, as young as 19, were raped by three, six and 10 men each. Since news broke of the horrible ordeal political leaders, lobby groups and South Africans have voiced their anger at the continued violation of women and spiralling incidents of crime.
The Independent Policing Union of SA (Ipusa), said the incident would not have happened if the police had listened to the union’s calls for fundamental structural reforms.
The union’s Bethuel Nkuna said if action had been taken previously this would never have happened. Nkuna said though they conceded that there was a serious shortage of manpower and vehicles, they were of the view that the police could act with the current available resources.
He said, however, this could only be successful if the police management planned their activities properly.
“Criminals are acting with impunity, and law-abiding citizens feel terrorised by the absence of the SAPS. In the wake of frequent mass shootings which are tearing our societies apart, Ipusa has been calling on the leadership of SAPS to do something about the police’s inability to fight crime.”
The chairperson of the portfolio committee on women, youth and people with disabilities, Nonhlanhla Ncube-Ndaba, said that the committee condemned the cruel and horrific act of rape and gender-based violence in the strongest terms.
Ncube-Ndaba commended the police and other law-enforcement agencies for the arrests, and urged them to ensure that all perpetrators were apprehended and faced the full wrath of the law.
“The committee is also calling on the Krugersdorp community and the entire Gauteng province to co-operate with SAPS to find the rest of the perpetrators. We are appealing as the committee to the structures and stewards who provide quality counselling and related services to the victims of rape to provide those services as the victims require those services,” said Ncube-Ndaba.
The 82 illegal miners are being held for contravening the Immigration Act.
Meanwhile, in spite of EFF leader Julius Malema joining the chorus calling for the arrest of the perpetrators, the red berets faced a backlash on social media platforms under the hashtag #VoetsekEFF.
The backlash came after comments made by the party leader in January calling for foreigners to find “creative ways” to get into the country.
“If the gates are not going to be open for the Southern African Development Community, fellow SADC people, please, find a creative way. This is your home.
“Your families are here. There is no way anyone is going to close you out here,” Malema said.