DURBAN - The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) says the discovery of 100 foreigners working in conditions resembling “modern-day slavery”, at textile factories in Newcastle yesterday, was nothing new as the union has been battling against the scourge for more than a decade.
KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development MEC Sihle Zikalala made the discovery yesterday during his department’s operation to check whether businesses were complying with regulations.
The department’s drive to crack down on illegal traders started last month, when it raided businesses in Cato Manor, Chesterville, Berea and Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road, in Durban.
Zikalala said that the foreigners, from Swaziland and Lesotho, had been locked like slaves in a small, unventilated room.
“This is not what we want, where people are kept in appalling conditions with no proper working conditions. We want proper job opportunities, but not for people to be made slaves.
“The clothing and textile industry has been identified by President Cyril Ramaphosa as one that needs to be turned into a special economic priority, but we want to do that properly,” Zikalala said.
He also reassured textile workers that they would also look into poor wages and conditions, such as working seven days a week.
“This thing of workers working up to 10 hours a day and earning R50 or R1200 a month is a problem. That is a plight we are opposed to, that’s why President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the national minimum wage, to prevent people being abused,” Zikalala said.
President of Sactwu Themba Khumalo said that the problem of factory owners abusing foreigners was common in Newcastle.
“The way these firms are built is also a problem because you can’t even see what goes on inside. In the past we have conducted raids on those factories to fight this.
“On many occasions, when we think we have defeated this scourge, it rears its ugly head again,” Khumalo said.
African Solidarity Network secretary-general Daniel Byamungu said that they would visit the Newcastle area to find out more about the conditions that foreigners worked under.
“Our people need to work under good and proper conditions, but before we make a proper statement, we are going to visit the area as soon as possible,” he said.