The formal trial of seven Chinese nationals arrested on alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa’s labour laws is expected to start this week in the Johannesburg High Court.
This comes after its commencement was on Monday postponed due to the non-availability of Chichewe and Mandarin interpreters, the Department of Employment and Labour said in a statement.
The seven were arrested in November 2019 at a warehouse in Johannesburg during a joint operation conducted by the Department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng, together with the police, Home Affairs and the Hawks.
The arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour.
The seven – Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian – will now appear in court on Wednesday.
“Six of the accused are out on bail. Accused number seven Zhang Zhulian is now held in custody because on 24 February 2021, she tried to abscond. She was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport,” the department said on Tuesday.
The accused are facing schedule six offences and will face 160 counts related to contravention of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, Unemployment Insurance Act and the Unemployment Contributions Act.
It also includes the contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, kidnapping, contravention of Immigration Act, knowingly employing illegal foreigners, human trafficking, kidnapping, pointing a firearm, debt bondage, benefitting 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 the 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,” it said.