The seven suspects, aged between 14 and 20, were remanded in custody yesterday after the shocking incident sparked outrage across the country.
The group were arrested when a sickening 10 minute and 33 second video clip of the unnamed 17-year-old being attacked went viral in schools and communities around Johannesburg.
Police believe the victim was abducted from her home in the township of Soweto on March 21 and gang raped by her attackers, who allegedly filmed the assault on a mobile phone.
The girl, who is said to have the mental capacity of a five year old, remained missing for three weeks before she was found on Wednesday.
By then thousands of people were believed to have watched the chilling footage of her attack on the internet or mobile phones.
The seven suspects were arrested earlier this week after they were allegedly identified from the video footage.
An eight man was due to appear in court today over the incident.
Police and prosecutors have since warned that anyone found in possession of the rape footage could face criminal charges.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said: ‘If anyone is caught with that video, viewing it or posting it on Facebook, they are committing a crime and can be charged for child pornography.’
The shocking attack has sparked a wave of anger and soul-searching across South Africa, where a spokesman for the cabinet described the incident as ‘barbaric’.
Yesterday members of the ruling African National Congress‘ women’s league staged a protest outside the Roodepoort Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg where the seven suspects appeared under armed guard at a hearing which was not held in public.
Crowds of local people also turned out to show their anger for the group of men, who apparently made no attempt to hide their faces in the video of the attack.
South Africa’s Sowetan newspaper reported that the group faced preliminary charges of rape, rape, sexual assault, engaging in sex with a minor for a reward, using a minor to create child pornography, committing a sexual act in the presence of an adult and the creation and distribution of child pornography.
SOUTH AFRICA’S PROBLEM WITH SEXUAL OFFENCES
The Soweto gang rape incident comes after South Africa’s police minister last year named tackling sexual crime as a leading priority for the country’s force.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world but has seen a fall in the murder rate in recent years.
However, official crime figures showed there were a total of 56,272 rapes reported in the country last year.
The huge number amounted to an average of 154 rapes per day – or more than six every hour.
Police minister Nathi Mthethwa admitted many more sex attacks went unreported and said the country was losing its war against rape.
Johannesburg’s Star newspaper yesterday captured the country’s sense of shame over the attack in a front page editorial headlined ‘SA’s disgrace: Our barbaric monsters’.
The newspaper wrote: ‘We have been united as a nation in our horror and revulsion.
‘The knowledge that this latest atrocity was filmed and then passed digitally from one to another before anyone had the common decency to speak out shames us all even further.
‘We are a nation of heroes; of Mandelas, Tambos, Luthulis, Bikos, De Klerks and Tutus, South Africans who won the world’s praise for their courage and humanity.
‘Today, though, we have tarnished their legacy – and the countless millions of decent South Africans who find this news as abhorrent as we do.
‘Those who’re responsible for this shameful, barbaric act must face the full wrath of the law.
‘This episode must force us to take a serious look at ourselves and ask: How did we get here? How did we, as a people, raise monsters who find a joke in this repugnant act?
‘Why should a girl child live perpetually in fear of what should in essence be her brothers, her keepers?’
The rape victim was today being looked after by social workers and was being subjected to a physical and mental examination by doctors.
Police confirmed they were investigating claims she could have been subjected to previous sexual assaults on several occasions since 2009.
Meanwhile, the suspects were due to return to court on Wednesday for a further hearing.
It was reported today that they faced the threat of vigilante attacks from gangs who threatened to subject them to ‘necklacing’, a notorious apartheid-era form of execution where a victim has a tyre doused in petrol placed around their neck and set ablaze