South Africa

WEST VILLAGE HORROR

Krugersdorp rapes – frustration as media blocked from court, police deny DNA backlogs to blame for delays

Krugersdorp rapes – frustration as media blocked from court, police deny DNA backlogs to blame for delays
Protesters outside the Krugersdorp Magistrates' Court where the men who allegedly raped eight women appeared on 28 September 2022. (Photo by Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Two months have passed since eight women were raped during a movie shoot at an abandoned mine in West Village, Krugersdorp. This week, 14 male suspects were in court, but updates on the case are sketchy, aggravated by a media ban on court proceedings.

The police ministry has poured cold water on speculation that forensic backlogs at South Africa’s laboratories are causing delays in the Krugersdorp gang rape case. 

This comes as the case against 14 men accused of raping eight women who were shooting a music video at an abandoned mine in West Village on 28 July was postponed this week in the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court to 28 November.  

Court officials said the case was postponed due to the state’s inability to link DNA evidence against the accused, the fact that one suspect is a minor, and collection of further evidence. 

Accessing accurate information was tricky because proceedings were held behind closed doors, with the media and public barred from entering, ostensibly because of the appearance of the minor.

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said the ministry would not comment on the ongoing case, despite having done so previously, and instead argued that significant strides had been made in reducing the DNA backlogs.  

In the first quarter of 2021/22 the backlog status stood at 241,152. In the first quarter of 2022/23 it had been reduced by 40.37% to 143,795.  

Police and security guards at the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court during the appearance of the rape suspects on 28 September 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

As of this week, Themba said, the backlog status was under 90,524, a further 37.05% decrease from the previous quarter. 

“I do want to put it on record that the ministry is fully aware of the progress that has been made so far in turning around the functioning of the [Forensic Science Laboratory] and [reduction of the] DNA backlog, not forgetting that the laboratory is also dealing with new cases… each day.”  

Themba attributed the reduction of the backlog to better contract management, an increased workforce (since laboratories’ operating hours had been doubled), and the ministry working around the clock to ensure much-needed chemicals for DNA processing are acquired in time.  

These were “some of the many measures” in place “to ensure that the country really sees the back of these DNA backlogs”.

“It is also encouraging that the SAPS and the [National Prosecution Authority] have established a joint project which focuses on the prioritisation of court-ready cases with outstanding forensic reports, particularly murder and rape cases,” said Themba.  

An investigating officer, who asked not to be named, said the postponement was the result of the State needing more time for further investigations, and confirmed that crucial DNA evidence had been outstanding. 

The prosecution has said it has established prospects of a successful prosecution against the 14 accused, who faces charges including contravening the Immigration Act, multiple counts of rape, robbery with aggravated circumstances and theft. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Large police contingent strikes again as raids continue in Krugersdorp after horrific gang rape

Rape survivors’ heartbreak

One of the eight rape survivors expressed dismay at the pace in which the case was proceeding, accusing Cele of not keeping his promise to prioritise the case.  

The 26-year-old from Alexandra said: “It is heartbreaking because we want to move on with our lives. Sometimes you try to forget but you can’t because you don’t have full details of why it happened or if justice will be served.  

“It would be better if these people were already jailed (sentenced), but right now anything can still happen.”  

While Cele – who has visited the victims and their families – has repeatedly promised to ensure that the case is prioritised, including before the National Council of Provinces, not much has happened after the arrests.  

“It feels like it was one of those promises because the case was all over the media, now it is quiet, it is like he [Cele] has forgotten about us.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Krugersdorp victim’s ordeal: ‘I closed my eyes, crying. Moments later, I was also raped, by three men’   

Media and public ban

When the case was heard in the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, for the first time the media and the public were not allowed inside the courtroom.  

Security personnel said the matter was being held behind closed doors because one of the suspects is a minor. Several attempts were made to get answers from the National Prosecuting Authority, to no avail.  


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The NPA’s Gauteng spokesperson, Phindi Mjonondwane, could not be reached for comment, while the head of communications, Bulelwa Makeke, said there was no one available to give comment in Mjonondwane’s absence. 

‘We will never be quiet’

The ban caused outrage among those who turned out to demand justice for the victims. Among them was EFF deputy secretary-general Poppy Mailola, who slammed the court’s decision not to allow the public in, as well as its failure to communicate this in advance. She said preparations ought to have been made beforehand.  

“The court was aware that among the accused there is a minor. They should have taken the minor and put him in a separate procedure or courtroom.”

The red berets accused the court of seeking to conceal the identity of the suspects, some of whom could be granted bail and released into society. Mailola said that when the case heads back to court the party will forcefully enter the premises. “We are coming back on the 28th, we will enter that courtroom whether they like it or not, we fear fokol… We will never be quiet or silent about this thing.”

Still no answers

Karabo Manyama of ActionSA in Joburg said she felt despondent about the manner in which the case had been handled. 

“I really want to put myself in the shoes of the eight victims, who today, once again, do not have resolution over what has taken place for them. I cannot imagine what it feels like to be gang-raped. And still have no answers after so many months,” she said.  

Manyama said the party advocated for the rule of law and was of the view that there were many loopholes in the case, with the State seemingly not doing enough to close them.  

ActionSA supporters at the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on 28 September 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

“There are real concerns. The mere fact that we cannot have media representatives inside the court case in order to provide and share the proceedings with citizens, that’s a concern. It’s a concern that today we were not even given the opportunity to go inside from the beginning of the case… we have been right inside the courtroom following this specific case. So it really concerns us that there is yet another postponement.”  

Manyama said she feared the victims may have to wait until 2023 for answers following their ordeal.  

“I really don’t have hope that this case will be sealed by the end of this year. It has been postponed to the 28th of November 2022. It saddens me to say this, but it honestly feels as though there’s going to be another postponement. How long does a case of this magnitude have to drag? How long do we not have answers? How long do women in South Africa, the eight women, continue to live in fear? How long? How long? So we do need answers.” 

Noluthando Mangole, from the Women in Prayer organisation, expressed similar sentiments, adding that the State had to set an example through the case and send a strong message that such crimes will not be tolerated in the country.

“If the law does not take its course we will continually be behind locked doors and gates. We are not seeing any freedom for ourselves, so we are appealing that these cases must be speeded up. The State must make examples of them so that even those who are still plotting to commit these crimes know very well that they will suffer the consequences.” DM

 

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  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    Your report is very much to the point and you wonder about the lies by Bheki Cele on prioritising the case and the DNA and the impression created that the people who have appeared it was because of the DNA link. This is the same lies about the toxicology report of Enyobeni that panned out that it is non – existent. You then wonder about the GBV victim who died in front of a police station having given them the names of the perpetrators and no arrests! These lies by the Thuma Mina brigade are very many to enumerate them all. The delay in the trial of the perpetrators of those who raped the 8 women in Krugersdorp is very emblematic of one’s experience in defending a GBV victim against secondary abuse by a magistrate in Protea. I witnessed delays but I am determined to make them pay. This is very good that you capture such incompetence and negligence. It is everywhere in every magistrate court. An NGO in Lenz used to document these in my union years and one would ignore anything regarding GBV coming from the Ministers and the President as reality is different on the ground. We were happy that the incident caught public attention and we thought it is the going to bring an end to incompetence. It seems we were wrong.

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