The Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court is set to sit for the application for leave to appeal the bail conditions granted to seven Chinese nationals, arrested for alleged human trafficking and the violation of South Africa’s labour laws.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Employment and Labour said the seven, who are currently out on bail, are expected back in court on Thursday.
The seven accused were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise in Johannesburg’s Village Deep.
The four men and three women were arrested on 12 November 2019 in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.
Their arrests followed a tip-off that they 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 and 37 of them were children.
During the bail hearing, the Court heard that the Malawians working in the Chinese factory were transported to South Africa using containers.
The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as “the transporter” who is still on the run.
It is alleged that the company’s operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled by employers.
The workers were also allegedly exposed to appalling working conditions without adhering to occupational health and safety.
In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS/Hawks in court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offences.
The accused face charges ranging from human trafficking, violation of the Immigration Act, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm.
The Department of Employment and Labour has since joined in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.
On 24 June 2020, Magistrate Basimane Molwana granted bail with strict endorsements to the seven who were initially denied bail on 20 March 2020.
Following that, the defence decided to lodge a second bail application attempt.
The Prosecution had earlier dismissed the submission by defence of a second bail attempt as the “reshuffling of old arguments as new facts”.
The seven first filed for bail in November following their arrest.
Accused number one was granted a bail of R70 000 with conditions to leave his place of resident only on certain days while accused number two, who also has a previous conviction, was granted bail of R55 000.
The rest of the accused were granted bail of R30 000 each with strict conditions attached to their movements.