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Durban - “We were sex slaves.” These were the words of a former child prostitute who, this week, began testifying against Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini, Bhabha Dubazane and Genchen and Ravina Rugnath.
The five face numerous charges in connection with the alleged running of a brothel at the Inntown Lodge in Durban and are standing trial in the Durban Regional Court.
Zweni was allegedly in charge of the prostitutes, also known as “Sandile’s girls”, who were working at the brothel, and the witness on the stand claimed he got her hooked on crack cocaine and then made her “sell her body” to sustain her drug habit.
She also claims Zweni raped her in 2010, when the now 18-year-old was a minor.
Earlier this week, magistrate Simphiwe Hlophe granted State advocate Yuri Gangai’s application for the witness to be allowed to give her evidence in camera, and the court was cleared of the public, including journalists.
On Tuesday, however, certain publications were allowed back after attorney Ian Chadwick, for The Mercury and The Daily News, made an application against the barring of journalists.
Chadwick argued that justice had to be seen to be done and that the press required access to proceedings to present fair reports.
The magistrate agreed.
He also said the accused were charged with racketeering, which was a prevalent crime around the world.
“It is fairly new in South Africa and the public needs to be educated,” he said.
The witness spoke softly and became tearful at times as she gave her evidence-in-chief.
She said a friend introduced her to Zweni at a lodge in the city centre in 2010.
On Zweni’s instructions, she was not allowed to leave the lodge until she became addicted to crack cocaine.
Then she was made to work as a prostitute. As such, she was moved from one lodge to another and, eventually, to the Inntown Lodge, she said.
Zweni was “in charge”, she said, and Dlamini and Dubazane worked for him.
Zweni kept the money she made and compensated her with drugs.
“I wouldn’t think of anything except smoking drugs. After I would smoke, I’d think of going out, selling (my body) and getting more drugs,” she said.
Zweni raped her at a block of flats, but she could not remember where it was, she said.
The trial continues.