Durban - Singing sensations Beyoncé Knowles and Mariah Carey – and the length of their skirts – took centre stage briefly in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday.
Witness, David Nyide, was giving evidence in a human trafficking, racketeering, rape and assault trial where it is alleged 23 women and young girls were recruited to work in a brothel, allegedly run from Inn Town Lodge, in the city’s Point area.
uMhlanga doctor, Genchen Rugnath, and his wife, Ravina, who own the lodge, and three other accused – Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazani – face a total of 156 charges. It is alleged the prostitutes were “Sandile’s girls” and that he paid for rooms for them at the lodge.
All five accused have pleaded not guilty.
The Rugnaths say they left the running of the lodge to the manager, Veena Budhram, and if there was anything illegal, they had no knowledge of it.
Nyide, a receptionist at the lodge, was asked by attorney Anand Nepaul, for the Rugnaths, if there was anything visible that identified the girls as prostitutes.
He replied that they had worn short skirts.
Nepaul pointed out that many people wore short skirts and asked him if he watched TV and if he had seen Beyoncé dancing or Mariah Carey on stage. The he asked him how short their skirts were.
“Short,” came the reply.
In Zulu culture, women did not wear short skirts unless they were prostitutes, Nyide said. Magistrate Simphiwe Hlophe intervened to ask if he knew if the girls were South Africans or even Zulus.
“I did not know,” Nyide said.
Nepaul asked him if he knew what the word “sgcebhezane” (someone wearing a short skirt who may or may not have her panties showing), meant. The skirts at the lodge were so short their panties were showing, Nyide said.
Nepaul reminded him that when he gave evidence earlier in the week he had been asked how he knew the girls were prostitutes – and he had only mentioned the short skirts.
Nepaul said Nyide’s story was a fabrication. Nepaul later told the witness to “stop skirting about” the issues.
He said he would argue that Nyide was a “schooled” witness who was being evasive, and urged him to co-operate as it was affecting his credibility.
Nyide said when the girls saw Genchen Rugnath’s car approaching the lodge, they would run away.
They did not want Rugnath to see them soliciting in front of the building, he claimed. Budhram, he said, had known Zweni was conducting prostitution at the lodge.
The trial continues on Friday.