Clashes in South Africa as illegal miners pursue after alleged gang rapes

Residents in the South African city of Krugersdorp have beaten with sticks suspected illegal mining workers and set fire to their camps following the alleged gang rapes of eight women last week by more than 80 men.

Residents of the village of Kagiso in Krugersdorp also barricaded roads with stones and burning tires during a protest against the presence of miners.

They say they are frustrated by the area’s high crime rate, which is blamed on illegal miners and the police’s failure to deal with them.

Some suspected of illegal mining were stripped naked by the locals and beaten. Residents kicked others out of their camps, beaten and kicked them before handing them over to the police.


Community members light fires in Krugersdorp (Themba Hadebe/AP)

In some cases, the miners were rescued from the protesters by the police.

The police responded by using rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the protesters, who also clashed with the police.

“We need police support because we are being terrorized by illegal miners. We can’t just walk around the neighborhood at night because we’re being raped,” said Nhlanhla Felatsi, a protester.

“Recently, we had a case where two female security officers were raped by the same people. The police don’t protect us.”

Eight women were allegedly raped last Thursday when a crew filming a music video at a mine in the nearby West Village were attacked by heavily armed men, some of whom were suspected of being illegal mining workers.


Residents seize a man suspected of illegal mining. (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

Police said they were investigating 32 cases of rape.

The attack was a shocking event, even for a country accustomed to high levels of violent crime.

On Monday, more than 80 men accused of involvement in gang rapes appeared before the court.

Illegal mining is widespread in South Africa, where miners known as zama zama search for gold in abandoned and abandoned mines in and around the Johannesburg area. Krugersdorp is a mining town on the western outskirts of Johannesburg.

Illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous by the police, are usually armed and have been known to fight fierce turf battles with rival groups.

The trade is believed to be dominated by immigrants who enter illegally from the neighboring countries of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and police said some of the men suspected of raping the eight women were foreign nationals.


Women protest in front of a courthouse in Krugersdorp. (Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

This has exacerbated the situation and comes at a time when South Africa is seeing a surge in xenophobic attacks caused by locals accusing foreigners of crimes in their areas.

“What upsets me is that we live like we are not South Africans. How can someone out of nowhere come in and control us in our community?” said Thoko Settlehabi, a resident of Kagiso.

“People from Lesotho and Zimbabwe come into our homes and rape us. You must ensure that you and your family are at the premises by 6:00 pm. When will our children be allowed to be free?”

Police say they are still analyzing DNA evidence to link some suspects to the rapes, but residents have criticized local cops for not acting despite warnings that illegal miners as part of larger crime syndicates are operating in the area.

“We are fighting not only against zama-zams, we are fighting against all crime. Our police must stand up, our police must step up,” said Cabello Matlow, a spokesman for the local government.

“Obviously something is wrong here. If someone exports gold here, where do they take it? Our political leaders need to come together and figure this out,” he added.