The human trafficking trial against seven Chinese nationals is set to resume on 27 March 2023, after the Mandarin interpreter finally made it to court.
The accused, Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying and Zhang Zhilian are facing six offences.
The case was postponed in October, after the accused told the Johannesburg High Court that they were struggling to understand the previous Cantonese-speaking interpreter.
The Department of Employment and Labour arrested the four males and three female Chinese nationals after an operation on 19 November 2019.
Their charges include human trafficking, contravention of Immigration Act, kidnapping, pointing a firearm, debt bondage, benefitting from the services of a victim of trafficking, conduct that facilitates trafficking, illegally assisting person(s) to remain in South Africa, and failure to comply with duties of an employer.
“These relate to Occupational Health and Safety, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Act, UI Contributions Act, the National Minimum Wage Act, Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA),” said Teboho Thejane, the spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Labour.
Thejane said they pleaded guilty to violating several South African Labour laws in October 2021.
“However, the other charges still stand and they will continue to face trial on those,” he added.
Running illegal factory
The Chinese were arrested during a joint operation by the labour department’s inspection and enforcement services together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) Hawk Unit and the Department of Home Affairs.
The accused were running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg.
About 91 illegal Malawian nationals, including 37 children, were working at the factory. They were allegedly shipped into the country through containers.
“The Malawian workers employed at the factory testified that the company’s operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled. Workers were also allegedly subjected to beatings, insults and exposed to hazardous working conditions in violation of occupational health and safety Act,” Thejane said.
Five of the accused were granted bail, however, Chen Hui and Zhang Zhilian are still locked up after they violated their bail conditions.
They were sent back to police custody after they attempted to flee the country on separate occasions.
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