More than 80 men have appeared in court after being accused of gang-raping eight women who were filming a music video near an illegal gold mine in South Africa.
The 84 men, who are also suspected of armed robbery of the video production crew, were arrested in an abandoned mine after the alleged rape and robbery near the town of Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
Police Minister Becky Selle told a press conference that the incident in Krugerdorp was “a shame for the nation”.
According to police, the suspects are alleged to be illegal miners known as zama-zamas who dig for gold in the many closed mines in the Johannesburg area. Many of the illegal miners are foreigners.
The gang-rape occurred when a crew shooting a music video in one of the abandoned mines was attacked by armed men on Thursday last week, police said.
“The crew of 22 – 12 women and 10 men – were busy filming a music video when they were allegedly attacked by a group of armed men dressed in blankets,” said Lt Gen Elias Mawela police commissioner for Gauteng province.
“The suspects ordered everyone to lie down and proceeded to rape eight of the women and robbed everyone of their belongings before leaving the scene,” he added.
The crew had all their video equipment stolen and police are investigating 32 cases of rape, he said.
DNA samples from the women will be used to identify the perpetrators, police said.
Others arrested are expected to face additional charges of illegal immigration and illegal mining.
More than 300 people demonstrated outside the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Monday to express community outrage over the rapes.
News of gang-rapes and robberies have angered many in the area, who have complained that such incidents are rife around Krugersdorp.
“We will demand that the police station be brought 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 organization that protests against illegal immigrants in South Africa.
The organization was part of Monday’s demonstration outside the courthouse.
“They are clearly failing to tackle crime in this area so they should be put under management,” Ms Dambula said.
Gender-based violence is a major issue in South Africa, with the rate of sexual offenses there one of the highest in the world.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press