Durban manager tells court of assault

2014-12-01 18:16

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Durban - The manager of a hotel at the centre of a child sex trial told the Durban Regional Court on Monday that the owner's wife assaulted her because she ignored an instruction to have Indian staff at reception.

Veena Budhram, the former manager of the Inn Town Lodge and the Down Town Lodge in Durban, told the court the owner, Dr Genchen Rugnath, was happy with her employing blacks at the hotels, but his wife Ravina was not.

The Rugnaths, Sandile Patrick Zweni, Nonduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazini have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges, including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.

Zweni allegedly operated a prostitution ring from the Inn Town Lodge.

Rugnath has claimed he knew nothing about prostitution at the Inn Town Lodge, in the Point Road area, known for its red-light activities, and that he left the running of the hotel to Budhram.

His wife claimed she was a housewife and had no involvement in running the hotel.

However, Budhram told the court: "She told me that she does not want to see black staff at reception."

Budhram testified that she had found it better to have black staff as most of the hotel's clientele was black and the staff could communicate in Zulu and English.

"I found the business much better with the African staff at reception."

Budhram, who was based at the Down Town Lodge, said she once received a call from Ravina instructing her to place Indian staff at reception or to work there herself if she could not.

Budhram said she ignored the instruction as it was at the end of the month and she needed to balance the business's books.

A few hours later, Ravina arrived at the Down Town Lodge and barged into her office.

"She grabbed my cellphone, which was on the desk. She grabbed me by my clothes and assaulted me on that day. I was assaulted quite badly. I was pushed around, kicked, I was on the floor," Budhram told the court.

She said a cleaner and a security guard had to pull Ravina off her.

That night, Rugnath and his two sons arrived at the hotel and he apologised to her. The next day, Rugnath said his wife claimed only to have sworn at her.

Witnesses

Budhram testified that she told him two people witnessed what happened. She said the matter was not spoken of again.

She said Ravina had known what was happening at Inn Town Lodge and regularly visited both hotels. On some occasions she even manned the reception desk and told Budhram about women coming to the hotel.

"I did tell her that these are the girls that are working for accused number one [Zweni] and they are bringing their men into the lodge," Budhram testified.

She said she clashed with Ravina on two other occasions, but that these did not lead to a physical confrontation.

The court heard that, in an attempt to encourage business at the Inn Town Lodge, Rugnath authorised the receptionist to give beers to the girls whenever they brought in a client.

Budhram said Rugnath would talk to the women and check their names against the register.

She testified that on one occasion Rugnath questioned "a particular girl who was well-dressed", asking her: "Why do you have to take your clients to the beachfront when you can take them here?"

Budhram told the court it was difficult for the Inn Town Lodge to get bookings from other clients because Zweni's girls would "march up and down" outside the hotel.

She said Rugnath would phone to check on bookings made by the women managed by Zweni. If Zweni's payment was less than R2 000 for the day, he would call her and ask her why.

She said on one occasion a payment of Zweni's was missed and not included in the daily figures faxed to Rugnath's surgery.

Budhram was arrested with the others in February 2012, but has since turned State witness.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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