The employees work under appalling and horrific conditions.
The Hawks and the labour department this week uncovered an illegally-run Chinese factory in Johannesburg which not only employed children and illegal immigrants.
They also subjected them to extremely cheap and forced labour.
In a statement posted on the government’s website, the labour department’s chief inspector in Gauteng, Adv Michael Msiza said his inspectors who were there during the bust “expressed shock and disgust as this was “the most grim site” they have ever come across”.
He likened the operation to “modern day slavery”, saying it would not be tolerated in South Africa.
“Such barbaric acts have no place in our democratic State that upholds and promotes freedom, equality and human dignity. There is no human dignity in locking in employees and violating their rights in employment, including a right to earn a minimum wage and to be covered regarding social security,” Msiza said.
The group of illegal immigrants from Malawi is said to have been locked up behind high steel gates at premises known as “Beautiful City” in Village Deep.
The workers had limited movement, were expected to work seven days a week, with earnings of R65 a day.
Their employer was a Chinese national.
The factory specialised in creating the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing.
“Inspectors found minor children, who are alleged to be around the age of 15,” read the statement from labour.
“The employer was [allegedly] violating the suite of labour legislation ranging from the National Minimum Wage, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” said the department of labour.
“[On] request to go on leave, they are informed to never come back. Employees lived on the premises in uninhabitable conditions. The employer failed to provide employees with information concerning remuneration and they do not have contracts,” department added.
“Information obtained by the department was that the migrant workers were locked in a factory day and night. When the Malawian citizens wanted to buy [from the shops], they were expected to write down what they want on a piece of paper for their bosses to buy it for them,” the department added.
Police were first alerted of the illegal operation in August where they were informed that Chinese nationals were trafficking Malawian nationals for this business.
The Chinese national behind the operation has been arrested while the employees were taken to a place of safety.
“The company has since been issued with a compliance notice for failing to pay the National Minimum Wage,” said the labour department.