By Kaya 959 News
The case against seven Chinese nationals accused of human trafficking is expected to take place next Monday.
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.
Acting spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Labour, Musa Zondi, said the formal trial and plea will take place on April 26 at the Johannesburg High Court.
The seven; Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian, were arrested in November 2019.
Judge Mhango adjourned the matter to allow the State and defence to finalise outstanding logistics. The matter was postponed on Monday due to the non-availability of Chichewe and Mandarin interpreters which the state has now secured.
The matter was transferred last September to the Johannesburg High Court from the Johannesburg Magistrates Court after the accused were granted bail.
“Six of the accused are out on a bail except for accused number seven Zhang Zhilian who is in custody after she was caught trying to flee the country in February. She was nabbed at the OR Tambo International Airport,” Zondi said.
Suspects facing schedule six offences
He said 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,” Zondi added.
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 (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.
37 Children found in factory
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 the occupational health and safety Act.
Last year, Dr Rebecca Walker, a research associate at the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University, compiled a report that found SA was considered as a source, transit and destination for human trafficking.
The report, Child Trafficking in South Africa: Exploring Myths and Realities, found that SA was considered to be on the Tier 2 Watchlist.