The seven Chinese nationals, who were last year arrested for alleged human trafficking, are believed to owe the Department of Employment and Labour R7 million for contravening various labour laws.
This emerged on Wednesday during the testimony of Gauteng Provincial Chief Inspector, Advocate Michael Msiza, in the bail hearing of the seven in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. Msiza, on behalf of the Department, submitted a statement requesting that further criminal charges be imposed on the accused for contravention of the labour laws.
Kevin Tsao, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian were arrested in November last year for illegally operating Beautiful City Pty Ltd in Village Deep, in Johannesburg.
The Chinese nationals were arrested during the joint operation by the department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch, South African Police Services (SAPS), Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit. The arrests came after the departments received tip-offs alleging that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour.
“During the blitz, 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of them were children. The court has since heard that the Malawians working in the factory were transported to South Africa through containers,” said the department in a statement.
“The accused are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as ‘the transporter’ who is still on the run.”
In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS and the Hawks in court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offence. The accused will face charges ranging from human trafficking, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm.
The department has filed a statement requesting additional charges - those of contravention of labour laws be added.
Msiza told the court that the laws contravened by the accused include:
- Failure to register, keep record of earnings, pay annual assessment, furnish commissioner with particulars in relation to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130, of 1993 and owes R659 879,11;
- Contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act no. 85 of 1993 by failing to provide and maintaining a safe workplace, failure to inform employees about hazards to their health and safety, and failure to report an accident to the inspector;
- Contravention of the Unemployment Insurance Act by failing to provide the information of employees to the commissioner of the Fund, employer failed to inform the commissioner of any changes required;
- Contravention of the Unemployment Insurance Contribution by failing to provide particulars to the commissioner, failed to pay contributions to the commissioner in the total amount of R261 231,42 as required;
- They also contravened the Basic Conditions of Employment Act by failing to pay employees for Sunday work amounting to R2 070 900,00; and
- Contravention of the National Minimum Wage Act 09 of 2018 as the employer failed to pay the prescribed minimum wage to an amount of R4 664 041,20.
The Provincial Inspector told the court that the contraventions carry either a fine or imprisonment, or both the fine and imprisonment imposed simultaneously.
Msiza also testified that the fact that the Malawians were “illegal” in the country does not absolve the employer from his/her obligations to abide by the labour laws.
“It is also an obligation of an employer to check the status of an employee when hiring,” said Msiza.
The department was also considering attaching the property owned by the Chinese to recover what was owed to the department. – SAnews.gov.za