The police arrested more foreigners yesterday at the scene of a gang rape that has shocked the nation, but they are no closer to identifying the suspects behind the horrific attack at a Krugersdorp mine dump.
Several discrepancies have been raised regarding the incident, including:
– The “disappearance” of nine Nigerian men who were part of a film crew, with police saying they left without their pants. One also left without his underpants;
– Mystery surrounds the company believed to have been shooting the video. Red Button Productions has five active directors, according to a company search, but one denied any knowledge of the company, while two others said they had not been involved for years;
– And police sources said some of the women were apparently reluctant to give statements, and gave false addresses. The police have, however, denied this.
“There is definitely a story behind the story here, but I think the big shots want to keep that information for later,” a police source revealed.
Activist and researcher Lisa Vetten said one in six rapes in SA involves two or more perpetrators.
These types of cases also generally had lower rates of arrests and convictions, because they were committed by strangers and more difficult for police to trace.
She said the Krugersdorp attack had worrying similarities to a number of gang-like attacks that had occurred in SA recently, such as the tavern attacks earlier this month, and showed a brazen attitude. There were also deep historical links between gangs and mining in SA, with the Numbers prisons gangs having roots in the mining community. She said the incident was appalling and that the type of video that was being filmed made no difference to the seriousness of the crime.
“If people were to withdraw sympathy or doubt the veracity of women’s experience, it would underscore that we are firmly rooted to the stereotype that there are deserving and undeserving rape victims — that victims must be as pure as the driven snow, on their way to church, a mother of three, to deserve our sympathy, while other women are considered ‘unrapeable’.
“It would be a shame for this case to turn into a spectacle. There must be respect for these victims.”
West Rand district commissioner Major General Fred Kekana confirmed that eight women were on the scene and that five of them were raped.
More than 80 undocumented suspects have been arrested in the past 24 hours in Krugersdorp’s West Village area. They are being held for contravening the Immigration Act.
The film crew was apparently shooting a music video when a gang of illegal miners, said to be foreigners and dressed in Basotho blankets, stormed the scene, firing guns.
“It is horrific allegations,” Kekana said. “The film crew and the models started filming on Thursday at around 2pm. The women say they were wearing scarves as skirts and standing against the mine dump. They say they were almost finished when 10 men wearing blankets and balaclava masks approached.”
He said four members of the film crew were waiting at the place where the vehicles were parked.
“When the 10 men approached they fired shots into the air. The victims tried to run, but were encircled and one by one raped. The men abused these women. They did not use condoms and raped them one after the other. One woman was raped on the spot at the vehicles when the men arrived.”
Kekana said some of the victims who tried to escape made it to their vehicles, “only to find their four colleagues already on the ground, where 10 more men made them lie down. One of the women was raped right there.”
“Whoever committed these horrific and heartless acts must be locked up and the key thrown in the Atlantic. They do not belong in our communities. There were also 10 men there [from the crew] — nine from Nigeria and one Afrikaans man from Krugersdorp. The men all went home without their pants. One of them lost his trousers as well as his underpants,” an angry Kekana said.
A police source close to the investigation also told Sunday Times that the police did not believe the crew and models were there to make a music video as has been reported.
When asked if the police suspect an adult film (a tlof tlof video) was being made, Kekana hesitated for a moment.
“Of course all avenues are being investigated, but this I cannot presently confirm or deny,” he said.
None of the 80 suspects arrested have been directly linked to the rapes.
A gravel road from the village, 7km outside Krugersdorp, leads to the scene of the crime. Yesterday several police vehicles were still parked there, almost 48 hours after the incident.
Two of the police vans contained several newly arrested suspects. Crime scene investigators were still combing the scene for evidence.
Kekana is proud of the police reaction.
“We have 67 suspects in the cells at the moment. Up to exactly now, more than 80 undocumented suspects have been arrested, of which two were killed when they pointed firearms at SAPS members. A third suspect was wounded just before he could manage to escape into a zama zama mine hole in the ground,” Kekana told the Sunday Times. The wounded man is in hospital.
While he was speaking to the Sunday Times, he pointed out to an investigator items such as used tissues, an almost empty juice bottle and a grey scarf still lying on the ground. These were collected in official police evidence bags.
“The windy conditions and all the loose soil hampered our crime scene investigations yesterday [Friday] afternoon and evening. That is why we are still here gathering items that had sand over them last night.”
The police source said some of the victims initially did not co-operate with the police.
“One of the women is married but she refused to give her husband’s name or details because she doesn’t want him to know what she was doing. Others supplied addresses that turned out to not be correct.”
Kekana denied this. “They reported the matter to the police themselves, we did not have to go searching for them. As we speak some of our investigators are interviewing some victims elsewhere.”
A pedestrian walked out of the bush next to the mine dump.
Kekana immediately directed his officers to do a search. The man turned out to be a South African from the Eastern Cape, and Kekana gave him a lecture.
“You mustn’t walk in the bush. You are creating crime for us.”
Kekana said the arrests were the result of a joint operation.
“Officials from the department of home affairs assisted us. As we speak they are interviewing the suspects in the police cells. All of the more than 80 people we arrested are foreign nationals.”
He says police were responding to tip-offs from the community yesterday.
“They called us and said the suspects had gone underground after the incident but returned after we left. So we came back again and the 17 men in the police vans are the fruits of this return.”
The news crew phoned the father of the Afrikaans man from Krugersdorp who, according to police sources, was at the scene and part of the crew.
“I am driving back from East London in a truck carrying a load of machines to get to my son. He is too traumatised to speak to you.”
The father did not want to answer any further questions and ended the call.
The film shoot is believed to have taken place under the auspices of Red Button Productions, which, according to its Facebook and Instagram platforms, is a “media company that caters for any specific function you as a client demand via videography or photography. We will definitely be at your service.”
It has five directors listed on the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission database. The number for the first, Naveenraj Challa, was answered by a man who claimed to not know Challa. The man refused to identify himself.
Another listed director, Thomas du Plessis, said he remembers Red Button.
“I have not been involved there for a long time. I was under the impression the company had been deregistered already.”
A third listed director, Sipho Gabe Magosa, said he had nothing to do with the company.
“I was involved in the early attempts in 2008 to start a media company called the Red Button Collective and that never got off the ground.”
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili confirmed the arrests.
“No-one has been linked to the incident. The district and stations are continuing with their day-to-day operations and today 17 people have been arrested for contravention of the Immigration Act,” Muridili said.
The National Union of Mine workers’ National Women Structure said yesterday it appreciated “the swift arrest of these monsters that have been terrorising the community of Krugersdorp”.
“We call on South Africans to stand together in ensuring these criminals [illegal miners] are not [extradited] to their country [Lesotho] for justice to be served. They should be handed a heavy sentence in South African prisons to send a clear message to all perpetrators that, regardless of their nationality, harassment of women and children and the vulnerable is to be a thing of the past.”
– Sunday times