JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African prosecutors have charged seven independent minors with the rape of eight women nearly two weeks ago in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
Seven other men are to be charged with rape 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 – have sparked protests and violent attacks against independent miners, known as zama-zamas.
Residents accuse the miners of operating illegally and committing many other crimes in their neighborhoods.
Following the rapes, angry locals went on a rampage, assaulting the miners before handing them over to the police and burning down the camps where they lived, their belongings and their mining tools. Protests broke out in and around Krugersdorp, including Kagiso, Bekkersdal and Mohlakeng.
The 14 suspects were identified by witnesses on Tuesday, according to the National Prosecutor’s Office. More than 80 suspects have been arrested in a police raid on a disused mine in Krugersdorp after reports of rapes and robberies emerged.
Seven of the suspects were charged at Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday with multiple counts of rape, sexual assault and robbery. The other seven will appear in court on Thursday, officials said. Those who will be charged on Thursday were in another court on Wednesday where they were charged with being in South Africa illegally.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that more people will be charged and added to the docket as investigations continue. We will be led by the direction the investigation takes,” National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Phindi Mjonondwane told the court.
Illegal mining is rampant in many parts of South Africa, such as Gauteng and Free State provinces, where miners dig for gold deposits in disused and abandoned mine shafts. 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 on Wednesday, demanding that the suspects be denied bail and that the government address the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa.