Durban - The receptionist of Inntown Holiday Lodge in Durban’s Point area - which the State alleges was nothing more than a brothel - said on Wednesday that she believed the girls working there were being held against their will.
Yvonne Dudu Shinga told Durban Regional Court magistrate Simphiwe Hlophe the girls were guarded by two of the accused in the dock before him, who used to also give them food and stop them from fighting with each other.
Shinga is testifying at the trial of Umhlanga doctor Genchen Rugnath, his wife Ravina, Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazani, who have all pleaded not guilty to a total of 156 charges, including racketeering and trafficking, relating to the alleged brothel.
Shinga, in her evidence in chief earlier this week, claimed Zweni had booked up to nine rooms at a time, at about R300 a room, and “his girls” would live there in the basement, guarded by Dlamini and Dubazani. When they brought men in, they would have to pay R100 for use of a room upstairs for two hours.
Shinga testified the doctor once phoned her to ask: “Where the girls have gone?” because business was quiet. The next day she reported to him that they were taking men to a nearby shelter which charged only R20. Soon after, the rate dropped from R100 to R20.
Yesterday, she testified further that at one time Zweni had been “kicked out” because he owed about R12 000.
One night Rugnath had visited his manager, Veena Budhram, to check on bookings. There were only two.
“He spoke to Veena (Budhram). I heard him telling her he can now see the lodge is quiet. So the person who was bringing the money to the company was Sandile (Zweni).
“Veena admitted it, saying Sandile was the one who got the girls into the lodge. She asked Rugnath what are we going to do. He said they would talk about it later.”
Shinga said about a week later Zweni had returned to the lodge.
She said she had had very little interaction with Mrs Rugnath, apart from once when she did an inspection of all rooms - excluding the basement - and on another occasion, when she came with her husband in the early hours of the morning and accused her of allowing people in without paying.
Mrs Rugnath had told her to pack her things and go.
Shinga said she had later been told by Budhram that she could stay on, and she was still employed there.
Under cross-examination by Zweni’s attorney, Mbuyiselo July, she said she did not know all the “girls” who came with men to the lodge, and did not know if they all “belonged to Sandile”.
Asked why she sometimes referred in her evidence to the girls as “children”, she said it was because they were younger than her, and were more the age of her own children.
The cross-examination of Shinga is expected to continue until tomorrow, when the trial will be adjourned until late February.