'Women rapists' trial postponed in Zimbabwe
HARARE - Agence France-Presse
Sisters Sophie Nhokwara (26), Netsai Nhokwara (24) and Rosemary Chakwizira (28) leave Harare Magistrates court in this file photo. AFP photoLawyers for three Zimbabwean women accused of raping male hitch-hikers to collect semen for rituals accused prosecutors Thursday of having no evidence or witnesses, as the high-profile trial was delayed.
"Four months down the line, the state still has no docket," Dumisani Mthombeni, attorney for two of the accused, told the Harare magistrate's court, which set the trial for next Thursday.
Sisters Sophie and Netsai Nhokwara and Rosemary Chakwizira were arrested in October after police found 31 used condoms in the boot of their car amid a string of forced sexual assaults on men that were first reported three years ago.
Mthombeni told the packed courtroom that the defense had reluctantly agreed to a postponement.
"They have to be acquitted on the merits. We want to go to trial," he later told reporters.
The trio's lawyers claimed the state was dragging its heels to avoid revealing that it had no case against the women who had been "paraded on national television as the female rapists".
"The whole country was in a state of disbelief that these things were happening. The police force got a lot of credit for having finally apprehended the culprits. At the end of the day there was over-excitement, over-sensationalisation of the issue," said Mthombeni.
Reports of women "still pouncing on innocent and unsuspecting men" had followed their arrests, he added.
State newspaper The Herald earlier this month reported two separate incidents of men being forced by two women at gun- and knife-point to have sex.
The three women appeared with Thulani Ngwenya, a boyfriend to one of them. All are out on $300 (225 euros) bail each.
The women are accused of forcing themselves on 17 men. They were arrested when they were involved in a car accident, when police found the used condoms.