The families of the women who were attacked during the much-publicised gang rape in Krugersdorp in July were shattered to learn that the case against the accused had been withdrawn.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced on Thursday that it had decided to withdraw the charges of rape, sexual assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances against all 13 men and the minor who were charged for the July 28 incident, when eight women were allegedly gang-raped while filming a music video at a mine dump in the West Rand.
NPA Gauteng spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said that, on consultation with the complainants in the matter, and evidential material currently at the disposal of the agency, it became apparent that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution.
The 45-year-old mother of two girls who survived the ordeal said it was disappointing that no one notified them about the decision. The first time they heard of it was through the media.
The mother added that although her daughters were provided with counselling, she was worried that the withdrawal of the case would have a negative impact on them.
When City Press asked to speak to the girls, they only said they were depressed and did not want to comment.
“This is a difficult time in their lives and they don’t trust anyone at this stage,” said the mother.
Allegations are mounting that police mishandled the case, which implicates more than 80 suspects.
The Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court found that there was no evidence linking the 14 suspects to the crime and acquitted them on all charges of rape, sexual assault and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
However, they still face charges of contravention of the Immigration Act because they are undocumented immigrants.
According to a police officer close to the case, the investigating team was at loggerheads on the methods used to track the majority of the suspects.
“Out of the 80 suspects who were arrested, only 20 of them were established to have been on the crime scene. So suspect tracing relied heavily on the apprehended ones to identify their accomplices,” the officer said.
They also indicated that during the identity parades conducted between August and September, there was no positive identification of the suspects, meaning that none of the survivors pointed them out from a line-up.
City Press reported earlier this month that a former police officer, who was released on a warning following her arrest in connection with the incident, had allegedly guaranteed safety for the film crew and the women.
Dolphina Truter faces charges of theft and defeating the ends of justice after she was found in possession of stolen items belonging to the survivors.
Truter (46) also appeared in the same court this month, and she will be back again on November 28, as the matter was postponed to allow the police to conduct further investigations.
The ex-warrant officer from the Krugersdorp Police Station was present when the eight women were allegedly raped and robbed at gunpoint.
City Press understands that Truter worked closely with the filming agency and insisted that the mine dump was a suitable location for the shoot.
Days after the incident took place, Police Minister Bheki Cele met with the families of the survivors at the Alexandra Police Station.
Cele said that he had asked the forensic science laboratory to fast-track DNA testing to successfully link the suspects to the crime.
Commissioner for detectives and forensic services Major General Khosi Sinthumile said some of the suspects who were expected to enter the dock were not on the national DNA database.
Martha Louw, coordinator of the Thuthuzela Care Centre – which was established with the aim of reducing secondary victimisation of rape survivors, improving conviction rates and reducing the cycle time for finalisation of cases – said the case was handled shamefully by the police.
“We would like to see the police, particularly the police minister, desisting from rushing and going public in cases such as this one because he is the architect of the kind of disappointment we are seeing now,” Louw said.