Prosecutors have dropped charges against three Zimbabwean women accused of raping male hitch-hikers to collect semen for rituals, after DNA evidence exonerated them, their lawyer said on Thursday.
"The state has withdrawn the charges," Dumisani Mthombeni told AFP. "The
police arrested the wrong people. We have always been saying that and the prosecution was buying time to delay the trial because they knew they lacked any evidence."
Sophie and Netsai Nhokwara, sisters aged 26 and 24, and Rosemary Chakwizira, 28, 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.
The three women were charged along with Thulani Ngwenya, a boyfriend of one of them.
The women were accused of forcing themselves on 17 men. They were arrested after they were involved in a car accident, when police found the used condoms.
The results of DNA exams on the women and the alleged victims exonerated the women, the lawyer said.
Mthombeni said the state has decided to prosecute Netsai Nkokwara and Chakwizira on a lesser charge of "loitering for the purposes of prostitution", punishable by a fine.
Reports of women rapists have persisted across Zimbabwe, even after the arrests of the three women.
State media in January reported two separate incidents of men being forced by two women at gun- and knife-point to have sex.
Mthombeni said his clients are planning to sue the police for "unlawful" arrests and the parading of the women on national television as "female rapists."