Chinese factory raided after 'human trafficking' tip-off: What you need to know

18 November 2019 - 12:23 By Unathi Nkanjeni
The company allegedly employed 150 illegal immigrants, many under age, who were locked up and forced to work seven days a week for R65 a day.
The company allegedly employed 150 illegal immigrants, many under age, who were locked up and forced to work seven days a week for R65 a day.
Image: Artit Oubkaew/123RF

Police and the department of employment and labour raided a Chinese factory in Johannesburg, which allegedly subjected minors and illegal immigrants to hard labour.

Here are some details about the discovery:

'Human trafficking'

The department, SAPS and the Hawks acted on a tip-off about “human trafficking”. It led them to the factory, where children and illegal immigrants were allegedly used as cheap, forced labour.

'Children as young as 15'

The group of illegal immigrants, said to be from Malawi, were allegedly locked behind high steel gates at Beautiful City in Village Deep, Johannesburg.

According to the department, the company, which manufactures inner cotton for blankets, employed 150 illegal immigrants and only one person had documents.

The workers allegedly had limited movement and were expected to work seven days a week, earning R65 a day.

Inspectors also allegedly found minor children as young as 15.

'Locked up'

Officials said no formal contracts were drawn up, and unlawful wage deductions and unpaid overtime also occurred.

If employees requested leave, they were allegedly told by their employers never to return.

The migrant workers were allegedly locked in the factory day and night. When they wanted to go to the shops, they were expected to write down what they wanted on a piece of paper for their bosses to buy goods for them.

Arrest 

In a statement, the department’s provincial chief inspector, Michael Msiza, said the Chinese employer had been arrested. The employees were taken to a place of safety.

The employer was allegedly found to have violated various labour and immigration laws, bylaws, health regulations and child-labour laws.

The company was issued with a compliance notice for failing to pay the national minimum wage.

“The underpayments for the 78 employees found on the premises was estimated to be about R6.3m and the employer has to pay the employees within 14 days of receipt of notice.

“The business was also issued with a prohibition notice by department inspectors, which means that no persons would be allowed to gain entry into the business,” said Msiza.

'Modern-day slavery'

Msiza said inspectors conducting the operation expressed “shock and disgust” at what they described as “the most grim site” they had ever come across.

He also condemned the employer’s actions and warned that the department would not tolerate “modern-day slavery”.

“Such barbaric acts have no place in our democratic state that upholds and promotes freedom, equality and human dignity. There is no human dignity in locking in employees and violating their rights in employment, including the right to earn a minimum wage and to be covered regarding social security,” Msiza said.


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