Chinese national nabbed for exploitation, human trafficking

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) in Gauteng has busted a Chinese factory involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour.

In a joint operation, the department, together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Hawks, on Tuesday raided the premises of Beautiful City (Pty) Ltd in Village Deep, Johannesburg.

Inspectors found minor children, who are alleged to be around the age of 15.

“The employer was [allegedly] violating the suite of labour legislation ranging from the National Minimum Wage, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” said the department.

In addition to the labour law violations, the employer was found to be in defilement of South Africa’s immigration legislation, by-laws, health regulations and engaging in child labour.

Beautiful City, the operation found, employed 150 employees, with 149 of them illegal/undocumented foreigners.

“The employer is of Chinese origin and the company manufactures the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing, and its operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates,” the department said.

Inspectors also found that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Act was not observed, with estimated underpayments of about R6.3 million for the past 10 months.

The blitz inspection followed a tip-off made in August, which alleged that the Chinese employers were trafficking Malawians.

“Information obtained by the department was that the migrant workers were locked in a factory day and night. When the Malawian citizens wanted to buy [from the shops], they were expected to write down what they want on a piece of paper for their bosses to buy it for them,” the department said.

Employees were found to be working under appalling conditions and were paid R65.00 per day.

“Employees are alleged to work seven days a week and any request to go on leave, they are informed to never come back. Employees lived on the premises in uninhabitable conditions. The employer failed to provide employees with information concerning remuneration and they do not have contracts,” the department said.

The employer, who was arrested during the operation, also allegedly effected unlawful deductions from employees’ wages.

All employees found on the promises were taken to a place of safety as investigations continued.

The company has since been issued with a compliance notice for failing to pay the National Minimum Wage.

Department of Employment and Labour’s Gauteng Provincial Chief Inspector (PCI), Advocate Michael Msiza, said the team of inspectors that went on the operation expressed shock and disgust at what they described as “the most grim site” they have ever come across.

He condemned the atrocities meted out by unscrupulous employers and warned that the department would not tolerate modern day slavery.

“Such barbaric acts have no place in our democratic State that upholds and promotes freedom, equality and human dignity. There is no human dignity in locking in employees and violating their rights in employment, including a right to earn a minimum wage and to be covered regarding social security,” Msiza said. –