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‘Employee’ in human trafficking case speaks out

human trafficking
Picture: Pexels

By Kaya 959 News

A Malawian national has given details about how he and several others were subjected to long working hours, hazardous working conditions and verbal abuse at the hands of seven Chinese nationals on trial for human trafficking.

Fraser Aufi said his dream of coming to South Africa and starting his own business was quickly shattered the day he set foot at Beautiful City Pty Ltd, the company owned by the Chinese nationals.

He said in 2017, he wanted to find work and then go back home to start his own business.

Testifying in the Johannesburg High Court on Monday, he said he and his fellow nationals were subjected to long working hours, debt bondage, hazardous working conditions, insults, assaults and violation of basic human rights.

He said his entrepreneurial dreams were dashed after he had to work in slave-like conditions.

Workers injured

Aufi told the court that initially, the Chinese refused to open the gates until the police climbed over the gates to free them and how the accused tried to “bribe” the police with food.

He testified earlier that during his stay at the factory he was once hurt his rib while working on a machine. Aufi told the court that he was never compensated for this and any other injuries he sustained.

He said other employees were also hurt from time to time and some even had missing fingers after they were chopped off by machines.

Aufi said that except for a few Malawians that have since left, most of the Malawians freed from the Chinese factory were now under police care and have been told that their status would be resolved after the Chinese trial.

READ: How to protect yourself from human trafficking

Suspects charged with 160 counts of crime

The accused; Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying and Zhang Zhilian, were arrested in November 2019. They face charges of human trafficking and violation of SA labour laws.

They are also facing schedule six offences.

They are charged with 160 counts of crime ranging from contravention of labour laws, human trafficking, kidnapping, contravention of Immigration Act, pointing a firearm, debt bondage, benefiting from the services of a victim of trafficking, conduct that facilitates trafficking, illegally assisting person(s) to remain in South Africa, knowingly employing illegal foreigners, and failure to comply with duties of an employer.

Accused number 7 tries to flee the country

They are out on bail, except for accused number seven Zhang Zhilian who is now held in custody because on 24 February 2021 violated her bail conditions by trying to flee the country.

She was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport.

The seven accused were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg after a joint operation by the Department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services, together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.

The accused have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The matter was previously postponed due to the non-availability of Chichewe and Mandarin interpreters.

The matter continues in the Gauteng High Court.

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