Doctor Genchen Rugnath and his wife, Ravina. File photo: Sandile Makhoba

Durban -

A surprise witness in the racketeering trial of an uMhlanga doctor, his wife and others claims that the doctor knew about “girls” using rooms at his Point lodge for prostitution.

Genchen Rugnath, his wife, Ravina, Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Du-bazani, who are on trial in the Durban Regional Court, are facing 156 charges – including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child and racketeering.

The State alleges that women and underage girls, aged from 13 to 25, were recruited to work in the brothel, which was run from the Inn Town Lodge, a three-storey building in Rochester Street, in Durban’s Point area.

Zweni was allegedly in charge of the prostitutes – also known as “Sandile’s girls” – who were working at the brothel. All the accused have pleaded not guilty, with the doctor claiming that he left the business in the hands of his manager, Veena Budhram, and, if there were any illegal activities, he was unaware of them.

Budhram was initially charged with the crimes, but has since turned State witness.

On Tuesday, David Nyide, who the State said came to its attention only this week, testified that Rugnath came to the lodge often to check the receipt books. He said Zweni kept “girls” for prostitution and they stayed in five rooms which Zweni paid for.

Nyide, who said he was a receptionist at the Inn Town Lodge, said that on one occasion when Zweni did not pay for two days, Rugnath, whom he described as the “boss”, spoke to Zweni and told him to pay.

He claimed he was present when Rugnath and Zweni had that conversation at the lodge reception. He added that Rugnath knew the girls were staying there. “He would see them when he came in. The clients were not allowed into the rooms because if they wanted to come in, they had to pay,” said Nyide.

He said the clients paid R20 to go to the rooms the girls were in, but if they wanted a private room, they had to hire an “upstairs room” for R100 for two hours. “I would write down all the payments in the receipt book and another book, and Rugnath would come to check the figures matched in both.”

He said Ravina also came to the lodge with Rugnath.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court heard that the former investigating officer, Warrant Officer Cyril Freese, was taken off the case last year after someone at the office of the director of public prosecutions asked that he be removed. Freese told the court during cross-examination that Rugnath and his wife had only been implicated in the crimes by Budhram.

Nyide is expected to be cross-examined on Wednesday.

The Mercury