A retired police captain today told the Johannesburg High Court that Malawian nationals were held up in the Chinese factory against their will.
Captain M. Modibo was leading the joint operation that led to the arrest of seven Chinese nationals in November 2019 who are now facing charges of human trafficking and child labour. Modibo testified that he had received information from an informant and he felt that it was “crucial” to mobilise a team and blitz the place.
The accused in the trial are Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian. The accused are facing schedule six offenses.
They were arrested on 12 November 2019 in a joint operation by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch together with the South African Police Services (SAPS)/ Hawks Unit.
Modibo further testified that the Department of Home Affairs was engaged later when the police were verifying the legal status of the accused when they were about to be arrested.
The joint operation was carried out at the premises of a company called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg. At the time, the joint operation uncovered illegal immigrants with some being minor children who are alleged to have been around the age of 15 at the time being subjected to horror working conditions. Most of the migrants were Malawian nationals and others were Zimbabweans.
Modibo told the Court that on the day of the operation, they were denied entry into the premises and police had to climb over the elevated gates to gain access.
The employers of Beautiful City were alleged to have subjected the “illegal immigrants” to undue exploitation and human trafficking. The Chinese are facing counts of human trafficking, contravention of the Immigration Act, 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 duties of an employer.
Jannie Kruger, Counsel for the accused dismissed Modibo’s evidence as hearsay. Kruger said the statements taken by the police from witnesses read like poetry. He said the statements were crafted and “embellished” so as to build a case against the accused.
Five of the accused are out on bail. The other two accused Chen Hui (number 2) and Zhang Zhilian (number 7) are now in custody for violating their bail conditions. The two tried on separate occasions to flee the country and were nabbed.
The matter has been remanded to 03 April 2023 (Monday) for further State evidence.