Brothel owner admits in court

2015-09-25 10:02
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese (left) and Pietermaritzburg Cluster Commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni shut the gates on one of the alleged illegal brothels operating in the city.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese (left) and Pietermaritzburg Cluster Commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni shut the gates on one of the alleged illegal brothels operating in the city. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The war on brothels and prostitution has nailed its first adult services establishment in court with the owner admitting to his crime and entering into a plea deal with the state.

The owner of a Pietermaritzburg escort agency, Marthinus van der Merwe (59), has been given a three-year suspended sentence in a plea agreement reached after he confessed to running two brothels in the city.

Van der Merwe’s brothel was raided in July. His is among more than 20 such establishments raided and shut down since May when a special task team was put together to investigate various motels and “so-called” bed and breakfasts (Bandamp;Bs) where ­prostitution was said to be taking place.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of keeping a brothel, seven of procuring women to become prostitutes and seven of “living on the earnings of prostitution”, which are all offences under the Sexual Offences Act.

Van der Merwe, owner of the Magical Powers Escort Agency, admitted in a written plea in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court that he kept a brothel situated at 9 May Street in Pietermaritzburg from 2001 until February this year. The premises were leased.

He said on February 1 he moved the brothel from this address to 203 Hoosen Haffejee Street, which he also leased. “I continued to keep the brothel,” he said.

Van der Merwe named five women whom he said worked for him as escorts, but said that he was “fully aware that they were committing acts of prostitution as well”.

“The arrangement I had with the ladies was as follows. They rented accommodation from me on the premises for R250 per week. When a male client came to the house, he would choose a lady of his choice and they would go into the room and make the arrangement regarding what the client required. This would include massages, conversation and sexual intercourse.”

Van der Merwe said he charged a fee of R50 for half-an-hour and R80 for an hour “which the lady would drop into a safe in an envelope”.

“I admit that I managed the brothels and from time to time recruited clients for the ladies. I also knowingly received monies taken in the brothel,” he said.

He also admitted that he advertised for women to become escorts at his agency on the Locanto website and said he would explain to them “what was required of them” when they contacted him for positions. “That is, they would be expected to have unlawful carnal intercourse with clients for reward [prostitute themselves]. I procured the ladies mentioned through these advertisements to become prostitutes,” said Van der Merwe.

He also arranged for the women to advertise on www.redvelvet.co.za, a South African escort advertising site that offers adult entertainment.

Van der Merwe said he had no other source of income.

The aggravating features taken into account in the plea agreement included the fact that prostitution results in exploitation of vulnerable women who are socially and economically desperate; that it perpetuates abuse of women, offends against the community’s sense of morality and is rife in Pietermaritzburg.

“There has been an outcry in the ­Pietermaritzburg area against prostitution and brothels which has resulted in several media articles being published,” the agreement stated.

Mitigating factors that were considered were that Van der Merwe had pleaded guilty and spared the state the cost and inconvenience of a protracted trial, that he is a first offender, is married (with no children), his wife is ill and financially dependent on him and he is currently unemployed.

SAPS uMgungundlovu south cluster commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni expressed his appreciation to the project commander, Lieutenant-Colonel S. D. Maharaj, and his team for a “job well done”. He said he wants to assure the residents of Pietermaritzburg that the city will soon be “brothel-free”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  prostitution  |  court

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