JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African prosecutors have charged seven self-employed miners with the rapes of eight women nearly two weeks ago in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
Seven more men are to be charged with the rapes on Thursday, officials said.
The rapes of the women — who were part of a film production crew shooting a music video at an abandoned mine in the area — sparked protests and violent attacks against freelance miners, known as zama-zamas.
Residents accuse the miners of operating illegally and committing many other crimes in their neighborhoods.
Following the rapes, angry residents went on the rampage, assaulting the miners before handing them over to the police and torching the camps where they lived, their belongings and mining tools. The protests erupted in Krugersdorp and surrounding areas including Kagiso, Bekkersdal and Mohlakeng.
The 14 suspects were identified by witnesses on Tuesday, according to the National Prosecuting Authority. More than 80 suspects were arrested in a police raid at a disused mine in Krugersdorp after reports of the rapes and robberies emerged.
Seven of the suspects were charged in the Krugersdorp Magistrates Court on Wednesday with multiple counts of rape, sexual assault and robbery. The remaining seven will appear in court on Thursday, officials said. Those who will be charged Thursday were in a different court on Wednesday where they were charged with being in South Africa illegally.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of more people being charged and added to the docket as investigations are ongoing. We will be directed by the direction that the investigation is taking,” National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Phindi Mjonondwane said outside the court.
Illegal mining is rife in many parts of South Africa such as the Gauteng and Free State provinces where miners dig for gold deposits at disused and abandoned mine shafts. The miners hold gold illegally and often operate in heavily armed syndicates, according to local reports.
Various community and political organizations protested outside the court where the men appeared Wednesday, calling for the suspects to be denied bail and for the government to address the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa.