Seven Chinese nationals nabbed on charges of human trafficking and violating South Africa’s labour laws, are due back in court tomorrow for their formal trial and plea. The seven will appear in the Johannesburg High Court.
Judge Mhango last week adjourned the matter to allow the State and defence to finalise outstanding logistics. The matter was postponed on Monday due to non-availability of Chichewe and Mandarin interpreters which the state has now secured.
The seven Chinese nationals are; Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian. Six of the accused are out on a bail.
Accused number seven Zhang Zhulian is now held in custody because she tried to abscond in February. She was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport.
The matter was transferred last September to the Johannesburg High Court from the Johannesburg Magistrates Court after the accused were granted bail.
The accused are facing schedule six offences and will face 160 counts related to contravention of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, Unemployment Insurance Act, Unemployment Contributions Act, Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, kidnapping, contravention of Immigration Act, knowingly employing illegal foreigners, human trafficking, 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.
The Department of Employment and Labour is involved in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.
The accused were arrested on November 12, 2019, in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services branch in Gauteng together with the SAPS, Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.
Their arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants into South Africa and subjecting them to forced labour.
During the joint blitz 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of them were children. In their bail hearing the Court heard that the Malawians working in the Chinese factory were transported to South Africa using containers. The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as “the transporter” who is still on the run.
The Chinese factory was allegedly processing the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing.
It is alleged that the company’s operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled by employers.
Workers were also allegedly exposed to hazardous working conditions without adhering to occupational health and safety Act.
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