Entertainment: More than 80 men appear in South African court over gang rapes of eight women

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More than 80 men suspected of the gang rapes of eight women and the armed robbery of a video production crew in South Africa have appeared in court.

The men were arrested at an abandoned mine after the rapes and robbery near the site in the town of Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.

The suspects are allegedly illegal miners known as zama-zamas who dig for gold in the Johannesburg area’s many closed mine shafts. Many of the illegal miners are foreigners, according to local reports.

Protesters outside the Krugersdorp court (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP) © Provided by PA Media Protesters outside the Krugersdorp court (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

The zama-zama gangs are also blamed for widespread crime in the area, according to local residents.

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The gang rapes occurred when a crew filming a music video at one of the abandoned mines was attacked by armed men on Thursday last week, according to police.

“The crew of 22 people — 12 women and 10 men — were busy filming a music video when they were allegedly attacked by a group of armed men clad in blankets,” said Lieutenant General Elias Mawela police commissioner for Gauteng province.

“The suspects ordered everyone to lay down and proceeded to rape eight of the women and robbed everyone of their belongings before fleeing the scene,” he added.

More than 80 men appeared in court (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP) © Provided by PA Media More than 80 men appeared in court (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

The crew were robbed of all their video equipment, and police are investigating 32 counts of rape, he said.

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DNA samples from the raped women will be used to identify perpetrators of the rapes, said national police minister Bheki Cele.

Others arrested are expected to face additional charges of illegal immigration and illegal mining.

More than 300 people demonstrated outside Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Monday to express the community’s fury over the rapes.

An anti-illegal immigration group (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP) © Provided by PA Media An anti-illegal immigration group (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

News of the gang rapes and robbery has angered community and women’s organisations in the area, who have complained that such incidents are rife around Krugersdorp.

“We are going to demand that the police station should be placed 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 organisation that protests against illegal immigrants in South Africa.

The organisation was part of the Monday protest outside the courthouse.

“It is clear that they are failing to deal with crime in this area so they should be placed under administration,” said Ms Dabula.

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