Police Minister Bheki Cele said forensic laboratories are working around the clock to identify whether any of the 82 people arrested in connection with the Krugersdorp attack were among the group that raped eight women.
A film crew was shooting a music video in West Village, Krugersdorp, when a group of men wearing blankets and balaclavas approached, and fired shots in the air. They ordered everyone to lie on their stomachs and, a few minutes later, more armed men came to join them. The group proceeded to rape the women and rob the crew of their valuables.
More than 80 people were arrested on charges ranging from illegal mining to illegal immigration, possession of explosives and firearms, and attempted murder.
They are expected to appear in the Krugersdorp Magistrate's Court on Monday, Cele said the investigating team had collected good evidence.
"I know many people have been arrested, but we need the real perpetrators. The evidence that has been collected by the police – biological evidence… will have to help us to link the real perpetrators," he said.
Cele said labs were working around the clock to get the information. The police's Khosi Senthumule told reporters on Sunday they had established a team to expedite the DNA results. Cele met six of the eight victims, along with their families, at the Alexandra police station on Sunday.
The women are singers, models, presenters and professional make-up artists.
During the meeting, it was revealed that some of the women were as young as 19.
Cele assured the victims and their families the police were determined to find the perpetrators. "These young women are traumatised and are not in a good shape, mentally or otherwise. This is why the Gauteng MEC of community safety, Faith Mazibuko, has sent psychologists and councillors to provide mental healthcare to them.
"I have also requested Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu to offer more support and immediately initiate restorative efforts for these young women, whose only goal was to earn a living, only to be met with such brutality," he said.
While investigations into the alleged robbery and rape are underway, police operations to crack down on illegal activities and arrest undocumented citizens, as well as wanted criminals in the West Village area, continue. The deployment of drone technology to assist officers on the ground resulted in the arrest of at least 84 people. Two died during a shootout with police, while another is recovering in hospital.
The director of community safety at Lobby group Action Society, Ian Cameron, said the police should have acted in the first place regarding complaints about zama zama illegal miners, then it would not have escalated in this way. "I don't think we will see any serious convictions come from this case. They need to start fighting fire with fire. Two zama zamas being shot dead is not something to be proud of... they are incredibly dangerous and a law unto their own," he said.
There is concern that laboratories, already buckling under pressure, will not be able to expedite the results. Cameron said the chances of them having success with the DNA process was very low.
"It is astounding that the minister now sees urgency in the DNA process. But we are sitting with court cases that we are literally waiting two years to get results from DNA labs.
"The amount of cases in the Western Cape alone that gets scrapped from the roll because of DNA reports is absolutely shocking. It simply makes no sense. They are severely under-resourced at the forensic labs... there is no way they can have any kind of successful convictions in this case," he said.
Dr Vanessa Lynch, the director of DNA for Africa, said it was encouraging because it appeared the police had taken DNA samples from the arrestees in terms of the latest amendment to the DNA act. The amendment mandates that every arrestee of a schedule 8 offence must have their DNA sample taken.
"My thoughts are that these monsters are not first-time perpetrators and that they have previously been arrested or even convicted offenders who should have had their DNA profiles entered into the DNA database," she said, adding: If we were on top of our DNA backlog, we could have identified them earlier and taken them out of society, thereby preventing them from attacking again.
Lynch continued: "It is hoped that the suspects are able to be linked, through their DNA, not only to the eight woman who were assaulted, but that they are also linked to other crimes they may have committed, through a comparative search of our national DNA database. I certainly hope so, albeit there is little survivor confidence in the criminal justice system to process their DNA samples timeously."
Lynch said a DNA database, when supported by the government, was one of the most powerful tools to identify serial offenders.
"Let's look at private-public partnerships to assist the Forensic Science Laboratory with the DNA backlog. Let's pressure the police to report to us monthly on the DNA backlog stats.
Rape has become a weapon of war in our country. We need to wage war back against these rapists and every other rapist they represent," she said.