WEST VILLAGE HORROR
Krugersdorp victim’s ordeal: ‘I closed my eyes, crying. Moments later, I was also raped, by three men’
‘I have always loved music, it is my passion. I thought my dream to be famous would soon become a reality because everyone was going to see me in the music video,’ said one of the victims of the horrific gang rape in Krugersdorp.
‘They are evil.” This is how Nonhlanhla Khumalo* described the men, allegedly illegal miners — known as zama zamas — who raped her and seven other women at a disused mine in West Village, Krugersdorp last week.
The 26-year-old model from Alexandra recalled the events that left her traumatised and with many unanswered questions.
In a virtual interview with Daily Maverick this week, Khumalo told how she thought her dreams to pursue a music career had finally materialised after she responded to a call to shoot a gospel music video for a popular artist. Khumalo said they had been instructed not to reveal the details of the artist nor the song as this could be detrimental to the ongoing investigation.
Khumalo said she had been contracted by a local model agency, whose name she would not reveal, but she supplied Daily Maverick with the contact details.
Contacted for comment, a woman at the agency responded: “I am not comfortable to speak about this.”
Days before the shoot, the women were told by their agency to bring comfortable clothes and sneakers as the shoot would take place at a location that would require them to walk around.
“I have always loved music, it is my passion. I thought my dream to be famous would soon become a reality because everyone was going to see me in the music video.”
The shoot took place on a hill in West Village, less than 5km from people’s homes. The road leading to it is desolate, with thick bushes all around.
“We were in the middle of shooting the music video when a group of men, dressed in blankets, approached in our direction with guns, instructing everyone to lie down. They demanded cellphones, car keys and jewellery.”
After they handed over their personal belongings, the men “started picking and choosing women, forcefully pushing them towards the trees and instructing them to take off their clothes. They started raping them, one by one.
“It was unbearable to watch, I closed my eyes, crying. Moments later, I was also raped, by three men.”
She said her attackers wore balaclavas and mining overalls. They treated the women like they had no feelings. “They are evil.”
Another victim (35) from Alexandra was raped by three men. She was reluctant to speak about the ordeal but said that she had suffered excruciating pain and was left numb.
She wants justice. “Maybe it was not the first time they did this, maybe they killed their other victims. Justice must prevail for them, but for me, nothing will take away the pain and humiliation.”
A week later, she says the strong stench of her perpetrators still lingers. “I can still smell them. It was like they never bathed.”
A university student (19), also from Alexandra, narrowly escaped being raped by lying that she had suffered a miscarriage. She told Daily Maverick: “It was bad … I don’t think that picture [of the rapes] will ever leave my mind. But I am trying not to dwell on it because life must go on. I am trying to focus on my studies.”
She said she had attended the shoot hoping to make some extra cash to finance her studies. The rate was not discussed before the shoot, she said.
The women say they were held hostage for about four hours, but the ordeal felt like days.
After the rape and robbery, the men fled and the women tried to find their way out. Police are said to have arrived at the scene nearly an hour later.
Arrests and crackdown on zama zamas
The rapes sent shockwaves across the country. Following the attacks, the government made counselling services available to the victims.
Police arrested more than 80 suspects from different parts of Krugersdorp, 60 of whom appeared in the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court twice this week. Twenty of the suspects are under age and their case was transferred to the children’s court.
At their first court appearance, the case was postponed to allow them to seek legal representation. Some indicated they would represent themselves while some said they would require the assistance of Legal Aid. On their return to court on Wednesday, they were all represented by Legal Aid. The case was postponed to allow an identity parade to take place. DNA samples have been taken from them.
Senior prosecutor Thabo Ntlailane told the court that the police had requested that the suspects be remanded in custody as most had not been profiled. Ntlailane also told the court there was a possibility that they could be linked to other crimes. Of the suspects in custody, none have been directly linked to the rapes of the eight women — they face charges related to being in the country illegally.
They are due back in court on August 10.
Police Minister Bheki Cele on Sunday met the victims and their families. Speaking to eNCA afterwards, Cele said a 19-year-old who was raped by only one man was “lucky”.
He has come under fire for the remarks, with the DA’s Nazley Sharif calling for him to be axed.
A place of danger
Strong calls have been made by political parties that protested outside the court on Wednesday for the government to take swift action against the zama zamas and perpetrators of crimes who are believed to be zama zamas.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “It is time to go out and reclaim the streets of our communities. We can no longer allow criminals, illegal immigrants, rapists to roam around the streets without any action.
“What happened here in Krugersdorp over the past week should serve as a wake-up call. We need our government to act and work with speed to deal with this issue of zama zamas.”
The DA’s MMC for health in the area, Gail Mphafudi, pledged solidarity with the victims and said the party had been working closely with law enforcement officials to tackle social ills and crimes committed by the zama zamas.
The community says they had warned that an incident of this nature could occur.
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Andre Sharmon, who has lived in West Village for two decades, told Daily Maverick: “Everything that is happening, we warned would happen in March already, we knew this or something big was coming.
“It is unfortunate that the issue is now in the spotlight because women who are not from this area were raped. We feel sorry for them. However, for this community, it’s almost a norm that people get raped and we hear gunshots every day.”
Of the eight victims, none are from West Village, according to an internal memo seen by Daily Maverick. They are from Alexandra, Lenasia, Germiston, Northcliff and Soweto.
The zama zamas are commonly referred to as “blanket people” in the area. They flaunt guns even in broad daylight.
“It is terrorism,” Sharmon said.
Nicolene Trom, the chairperson of the community forum, voiced similar sentiments, saying the community had been under attack for years.
“That’s our daily life … if you have not heard the sound of a gunshot, you worry and wonder what is happening because it is unusual.”
The zama zamas, according to Trom, used to go into the area only to buy food. This, however, changed in recent years. She said that as of late, they had been active in acts of bullying and intimidation, as well as crimes like robberies, burglaries, rapes and murders.
The community structure receives complaints daily, most of which go unreported, “because people have lost faith in our police system. At times, when people report these crimes they never get feedback … sometimes they get allocated the same case numbers,” said Trom.
Lack of safety
West Village is so unsafe that residents collectively decided to impose a 6pm curfew for themselves. They claim that whenever a crime occurs in the area in the evening, the police do not arrive. “They are too scared because there are no streetlights,” said Trom.
Residents say not even e-hailing services go into the area after 6pm because they fear the gun-wielding men.
“Even young kids are exposed to the guns, they know weapons very well,” said Trom, adding that in the past few days the area had been free of the sound of gunshots, even at night.
“We slept peacefully for the first time in six or seven months. Gunshots are an everyday sound, if the zama zamas are not firing shots within the community, they are constantly fighting for territory and even then, we are still exposed to the gunshots.”
Following the rapes, law enforcement officials have been on a mission to clamp down on the zama zamas.
On Wednesday, they raided several parts of Krugersdorp with the assistance of a drone, helicopters and intelligence and pounced on an illegal mining area on a hill along the R28.
They broke down and set alight several structures and confiscated gas bottles and other illegal mining equipment in what the Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, General Elias Mawela, called a disruption operation. He said the team wanted to ensure that it was impossible for people to set up the structures again.
Thirty suspects were arrested for illegal mining during Wednesday’s raid, bringing to more than 130 the number of suspects arrested since the operations started on Friday, 29 July.
Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase said the suspects would face charges including theft and contravening the following acts:
- The Precious Metals Act 37 of 2005;
- The Mining Health and Safety Act 29 of 1996;
- The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002; and
- Possibly the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.
Swooping on foreign nationals
Police have been criticised for arresting large numbers of foreign nationals, with some alleging that South Africans who commit similar offences remain free.
Nkwalase dismissed this, saying he was awaiting a detailed breakdown, but the suspects in custody were a “mixed bag” that included South Africans.
“We arrested different people, from locals to different nationalities. I can tell you now that there were Basothos, Mozambicans etc.
“Crime is crime, it knows no colour, no nationality. We are not targeting anyone, we are doing crime prevention, that is our business.”
The Black Sash advocacy group said: “In our advocating for the observation and protection of human rights for all in South Africa, we hold the view that in undertaking this mass raid and subsequent arrests, the police force must not justify their actions under the guise of trying to clamp down on perpetrators of another crime [the gang rapes]. Unjustified arrests are a violation of human rights.” DM
*Not her real name.
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