DURBAN - The formal trial against seven Chinese nationals charged with human trafficking and violating South African labour laws is expected to begin on Wednesday in the South Gauteng High Court.
This was after the matter was postponed on Monday due to the non-availability of Chichewe and Mandarin interpreters.
The seven were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg.
They were arrested in a November 2019 joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) in partnership with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the police’s Hawks Unit.
The joint operation came after 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.
During the joint blitz, 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of whom were children.
During their bail hearing, the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court heard that the Malawians working in the Chinese factory were transported to South Africa using containers. They were allegedly brought to South Africa by a middleman known as "The Transporter".
The seven Chinese nationals are Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian. Six of them are out on bail.
IOL reported that Tsao was granted a bail of R70 000, Hui was granted bail of R55 000 and the remaining four were granted bail of R30 000 each.
Accused number seven, Zhang Zhulian, was held in custody because on February 24, 2021, she tried to abscond and was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport.
Department of Employment and Labour acting spokesperson Musa Zondi said the accused are facing schedule six offences and will face 160 counts relating to the 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, and contravention of Immigration Act.
The charges also relate to knowingly employing illegal foreigners, human trafficking, kidnapping, 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 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.”