Sex trade under spotlight in trial of man accused of killing six sex workers

13 February 2024 - 15:45
By Phathu Luvhengo
The trial of Sifiso  Mkhwanazi is expected to resume at the Johannesburg high court sitting in Palm  Ridge on Wednesday. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo The trial of Sifiso Mkhwanazi is expected to resume at the Johannesburg high court sitting in Palm Ridge on Wednesday. File photo.

The Johannesburg high court sitting in Palm Ridge on Tuesday heard about the sex trade when a sex worker returned to the stand to testify in the trial of Sifiso Mkhwanazi, who is accused of killing six sex workers in 2022.

The then 21-year-old is alleged to have killed the women in revenge for a rape that occurred in June 2021 at his father's workshop. This led to his incarceration for 10 months. 

Miss A, who the court ordered should not be named, was asked by defence lawyer Vuyo Maqetuka to explain how her services work and how she reaches a "short time" and a "whole night" agreement.

Maqetuka asked Miss A to explain to the court the agreement she made with a client in terms of her service and extra offerings the client would want.

She told the court a discussion is had over the service required and the charge. Payment was usually made upfront, she said. Should extra services be required, payment was required for the services, and these were also paid before they were given.

Miss A said she always ensured she was paid beforehand. "When I reach the client, we talk about prices. Some clients prefer to negotiate. But first, l have to get my money," she said.

She told the court she does not discuss payment with other sex workers

Maqetuka asked if it was correct the main problem with sex work usually stemmed from payment for extra services.

"The problem starts when you agree to do the work before the payment," she said. 

Miss A stressed she wasn't aware of any sex worker who would extort money from a client by threatening to open rape charges after services had been rendered. 

She is one of the last people to see Joyce Moyo alive. Moyo is one of six sex workers whose decomposed bodies were found in a workshop in Johannesburg in October 2022.

Mkhwanazi is alleged to have murdered the women after picking them up from the streets where they operated.

Miss A said Moyo had been wearing a short skirt and a denim jacket and was carrying a black backpack.  

During re-examination prosecutor Leswikane Mashabela asked if she had ever threatened to open rape charges against a client after services had been offered. She said no. 

When asked if these were instances that could lead to an altercation, Miss A didn't give a direct answer. 

"It all depends on how you handle your problem because we go to different places at different times. A customer can take you to his place and will do whatever he wants to do with you, but where we operate a client will never have a disagreement because there are people guarding us," she said.

Mkhwanazi, accused of killing Moyo and five others, was arrested in October 2022 and charged with six counts of murder, seven of rape, six of defeating or obstructing the administration of justice, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. 

According to the indictment, Mkhwanazi's reign of terror lasted at least six months from April until his arrest in October 2022.  

"His modus operandi was to lure the deceased person, all of them sex workers, on different days under the pretext he was going to pay them for engaging in sexual intercourse with them. He would rape and strangle them — except for the deceased [Chihota Nyarai] in count 3, who he killed by shooting," read the indictment.  

Only three of the six bodies were identified.  

The proceedings were adjourned earlier on Tuesday after the prosecutor said he was ill.

The matter is expected to resume on Wednesday.