Seven Chinese nationals appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on charges ranging from human trafficking, debt bondage, and kidnapping to pointing of a firearm.
Kevin Tsao, a naturalised South African, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian are accused of illegally bringing 91 Malawian nationals, 37 of whom were minor children, to South Africa in containers using a middleman and subjecting them to forced labour.
The suspects were arrested after a joint operation by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection, Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng, Department of Home Affairs, the police, and Hawks had been arranged based on a tip-off. The person responsible for the actual “transportation” of the Malawians has not yet been captured.
The detained were allegedly operating a factory called Beautiful City (Pty) Ltd in Village Deep, Johannesburg.
“During the raid, minor children were found to be employed at the factory, and the employer was violating a suite of labour legislation ranging from the National Minimum Wage, Occupational Health and Safety, Basic Conditions of Employment, Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases and Unemployment Insurance acts to the Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act,” the Gauteng Department of Labour’s chief inspector, advocate Michael Msiza, was quoted in a local daily paper.
The next hearing was scheduled for January 29, the seven accused will be held in custody until their bail is considered.