In Brief

Big Brother housemate expelled amid rape claims

Siyanda Ngwenya thrown out of South African Big Brother for 'sexual misconduct', and Axola Mbengo removed ‘for her own well-being'

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A contestant on South Africa's Big Brother has been expelled from the show following allegations of sexual assault.

"At this stage it is not exactly clear what transpired between [the pair]," the broadcaster Mzansi Magic said in a statement.  "Having suspected that there may have been an incident of sexual misconduct, [we] acted by removing both individuals from the house."

Siyanda Ngwenya and Axola Mbengo were last seen kissing in bed, and he has since been accused of sexually assaulting her while she slept, South Africa's IOL News reports. Ngwenya allegedly boasted about having sex with Mbengo the next day, saying: "I dipped her but don't think she remembers because she passed out".

Mbengo told her fellow contestants that she did not consent to the sexual activity and she has been removed from the house "for her own well-being". It is unclear if charges have been filed.

The broadcaster is facing growing calls to axe the programme, as a similar incident occurred in 2007. Richard Bezuidenhout penetrated a fellow contestant's vagina with his fingers while she lay comatose of the floor. He was not expelled and went on to win the show.

There have been accusations of rape and sexual assault in Big Brother houses across the world, with critics accusing producers of standing by and watching the attacks take place. In 2012, a contestant in Brazil was investigated by police after footage was shown of him allegedly raping a woman who had passed out.

In Australia in 2006, two Big Brother housemates were suspended for holding down a woman and rubbing their genitals in her face. John Howard, who was then the country's prime minister, suggested the show's broadcaster use the incident as an opportunity to "get this stupid programme off the air", but it continues to be broadcast. 

Big Brother’s South African rape horror show 

November 1, 2007

THE SIGHT of a blind-drunk young woman being manhandled by a Big Brother housemate in what may be the most public rape ever has turned the stomachs of millions of television viewers.

The incident, broadcast live by a pay-TV conglomerate across Africa, has prompted denunciations from the continent's great and good. Viewers have flooded newspapers and internet message boards with emails expressing undiluted outrage.

  • Big Brother: previous jaw-dropping moments that caused controversy

Many of the emails contain photo clips from the programme that appear to show Richard Bezuidenhout, a 24-year-old film student from Tanzania, assaulting Ofunneka Molokwu, a 29-year-old medical assistant from Nigeria.

M-Net, which airs the show to a million-plus subscribers in South Africa, disputes the audience's version of events in the Big Brother house in Johannesburg, saying that if a "non-consensual physical relationship" began there, the producers - Endemol SA - would have intervened. "There is no indication that she was unconscious at the time," said Joseph Hundah, an executive at M-Net.

However, viewers of the incident, which took place on Saturday afternoon after an extended drinking bout which ended in copious vomiting and apparent blackout for Molokwu, remain adamant about what they saw: Bezuidenhout lay down next to the comatose young woman and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. He carried on despite the pleas of another female housemate for him to stop. Under a new Bill in South Africa - where, on average, a woman is sexually assaulted every 40 seconds - such an act would constitute rape.

Bezuidenhout, who is married, finally desisted and went off to sit by himself after drunkenly sniffing his fingers. At this point the producers of the show did intervene, sending paramedics into the house and cutting the live feed.

Bezuindehout, defending his sexual behaviour in a show that has featured copious nudity, recently told his housemates, "Well, this is Africa."

The contest is due to reach a climax on November 11. But the $100,000 on offer to the winner may prove chump change compared to the settlement sought by Ofunneka (right) and her lawyers once she escapes the Big Brother bubble and views footage of her very public humiliation.

Editor's note: Richard Bezuindenhout went on to win the programme, and the $100,000 cash prize. His victim came second.

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