Witness consented to prostitution

Durban - A third woman to testify in the trial of a doctor and four others accused of running a brothel told the Durban Regional Court on Thursday she consented to prostitution for free accommodation and to earn money to buy drugs.

The woman said she was 17 years old when she arrived at Durban's Inn Town Lodge to live with her boyfriend.

But after a six-month stay she was asked by one of the accused whether she wanted to pay for her stay and drugs through prostitution, to which she agreed.

The girl, who cannot be named, was testifying in the trial of Dr Genchen Rugnath, who is charged along with his wife Ravina, Sandile Patrick Zweni, Nonduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazini.

They have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges, including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.

Zweni is alleged to have operated the prostitution ring from the hotel.

The girl admitted under cross-examination that she was already 18 before she agreed to Zweni's request.

Asked by Zweni's lawyer if she was forced into prostitution or to take drugs, she said: "They [Zweni, Dlamini and Dubazini] were selling drugs and they would stand at the door watching us. They would be looking at us working."

She said she would have to pay them the money she earned from prostitution to pay for the drugs.

Girls as young as 12 were alleged to have worked at the hotel.

Rugnath's manager Veena Budhram was also initially charged but has since turned State witness.

Rugnath claims he knew nothing about prostitution taking place at the hotel, located in Durban's notorious Point Road area - known for its red-light activities - and left the running of his hotel to Budhram.