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So. Africa: Authorities continue to crack down on factories violating labour laws

Author: Thando Maeko, Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Published on: 4 December 2019

‘Hawks bust another ‘horror’ factory’ 29 November 2019

…“They don’t let us go out for lunch so we make pap every day,” says Ibrahim Mohammed, who gave the Mail & Guardian a tour of the blanket factory where he has worked, together with other Malawian migrants, for the past two years. Mohammed’s workstation, a few steps away from the kitchen and the bathroom, is where he sews the edges of blankets for at least 10 hours a day, seven days a week. He uses an old Kingstar machine. On a good day, he can produce up to 20 blankets, earning a maximum of R100. He has been employed at the factory for nearly two years. He manages to send back at least R200 a week to his family of four back home. The rest he uses for transport, food and to rent a room in a flat in Jeppestown that he shares with three other men. A woman sitting nearby, whose job is to fold the blankets, says she earned R50 a day.

…On Wednesday, Jiebo Home Trading was one of two businesses bust by the Hawks, the department of labour and the department of home affairs. The operation was aimed at cracking down on factories that have failed to comply with labour legislation. Human trafficking was also suspected, but none was found in this case. The authorities found that Jiebo was not complying with safety standards. “There is no ventilation, chemicals and dust everywhere and basic housekeeping rules were not adhered to,” says labour department deputy director-general in charge of inspection and enforcement, Aggy Moiloa. In addition to not adhering to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Jiebo was also found to have not complied with the National Minimum Wage Act, which was implemented in January.

Documents from the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) show the company was first registered in 2009, with Chinese citizen Jie Zhang listed as its sole director. Zhang was not on the premises when the raid happened, but workers tell journalists that she usually does not come to the factory but manages a store at the Dragon City Wholesale Mall in Fordsburg where the blankets are sold. The department of labour closed down the factory following the raid. Most of the workers, including Mohammed, were found to not have work permits, and were taken to the Langlaagte police station, pending their deportation.

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