POLICE in Zimbabwe investigating dozens of sex attacks on MALE hitchhikers have charged three WOMEN and a man.
Rosemary Chakwizira, 24, Sophie Nhokwara, 26, and Netsai Nhokwara, 24, appeared in court late Friday charged with SEVENTEEN counts of aggravated indecent assault after their alleged victims picked them out at an identity parade in the capital, Harare.
They are charged along with Thulani Ngwenya, 24, who is Sophie Nhokwara's boyfriend.
The women, all from the Midlands town of Gweru, were arrested on Sunday after trying to retrieve 31 used condoms at an accident scene -- three of them half full with semen.
Ngwenya had been driving a vehicle owned by his girlfriend when he ran over and killed a pedestrian, prosecutors say. Police examining the vehicle following the accident -- a red Chevrolet Aveo -- were approached by the three women with a suspicious request to pick up some condoms.
They were immediately arrested by detectives already on high alert for what investigators have dubbed the "highway rapists".
On the first count, it is alleged that on March 3 this year at around 7:50AM, the four, who were driving a Toyota Spacio without number plates, picked up a 19-year-old man in Budiriro, Harare. He thought he was hitching a lift into town.
Prosecuting, Michael Reza told Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini that the man was sprayed with chemicals and he felt dizzy.
He was driven into the woods along Mukuvisi River behind Houghton Park where they forced him to drink a concoction which stimulates sexual desire.
They then allegedly forced the teenager to be intimate with the three women using condoms which were then secured with the semen inside.
Posecutors say the man was again sprayed with the same substance and left unconscious. He raised the alarm on waking up.
On August 22, say prosecutors, the four picked up a soldier in Norton while driving a Toyota Raum.
The trooper, who was not in uniform, was taken to a secluded place near Porta Farm where at gun-point he was forced into having sex with the women.
On September 14 at about 5:20PM, the four, who were driving in a Mitsubishi Chariot along Chitambo Street in Chinhoyi, allegedly approached a police constable who was not in uniform.
They asked him for directions before bundling him into their vehicle after spraying him with an unknown substance, Reza told the court.
They allegedly forced him to have unprotected sex with them before pushing him out of the vehicle and speeding off.
Prosecutors say using different cars, the women, acting in concert with Ngwenya, carried out similar attacks on 14 other men using the same tactics in various other towns including Masvingo, Gweru and Chegutu.
The three women arrived at the Harare Magistrates' Court in a prison truck. They appeared exhausted after five days of intense questioning by dozens of detectives from various jurisdictions.
Police believe the "semen harvesting" was for ritual purposes.
For two years, investigators have been on the trail of female "rapists" who offer lifts to male hitchhickers on the country's highways before taking them to secluded places where they are forced to be intimate with them, usually at gun-point.
Watch Ruparanganda, a professor of sociology at the University of Zimbabwe, said sperm was associated with the regeneration of life, which would translate into business growth.
"People believe that sperms can make someone's luck improve," he said, adding that unscrupulous businessmen were behind the sex attacks.
Local journalist Wonder Guchu said: "It's believed that because sperm sources do not dry, anyone who uses sperms in ritual practices can earn money continuously while those who use it for power can have a grip on the people they control forever. Among those buying sperms are politicians and business people."
Earlier on Tuesday, more than 50 Gweru residents stormed the main police station in the town baying to mete out instant justice on the women, all residents of the Mkoba suburb.
Police moved the women to Harare on Thursday for Friday's identity parade as most victims were from the capital, while four were from Gweru.
In off-the-record briefings with journalists this week, detectives said the women had claimed that they were "hard-working" prostitutes. They allegedly told investigators they were so busy with "clients" they had no time to dispose of the condoms.
On her Facebook profile, Sophie Nhokwara, a divorced mum-of-one, lists among her favourite activities "driving around". Detectives think they now know why.
Charges ... Mum-of-one Sophie, 26, charged with seventeen counts of aggravated assault