South African women’s and sex worker rights groups demonstrated outside a Johannesburg court on Tuesday as a 21-year-old man appeared in connection with the discovery of six decomposed bodies believed to be of sex workers.
The man appeared on the bench with his face covered by a black cloth to hide his identity.
He was arrested last week when police discovered the bodies at a car repair shop in central Johannesburg while investigating the disappearance of a sex worker who was allegedly last seen with the suspect.
According to the police, some of the bodies were found with their hands tied and had evidently been in the building for a long time.
The man is expected to take part in an identity lineup on Friday.
An initial lineup was abandoned when a police officer assigned to conduct it was not available, according to prosecutors.
A group of sex workers attended the court case and booed when the man entered the court, demanding that the cloth that concealed his face be removed.
Some of them hid their own identity as they are expected to be witnesses in the case.
According to the spokesman for the National Tax Authority, Phindi Mjonondwane, the families of the victims had not yet been informed as DNA tests were still being carried out.
“At this stage we don’t have any of the deceased individuals that have been positively identified, that process is still ongoing,” he said.
Protesters brandished banners with slogans calling for the decriminalization of sex work and the protection of sex workers.
Nozipho Dlamini, who represents the Sisterhood Foundation that deals with women’s issues, said the areas where sex workers operate should be made safer.
“As a community, we prefer that wherever they are, the streets and properties where they stay should be protected,” Dlamini said.
The suspect is expected to appear in court again on October 25.