South Africa - Bosman Bus Station in Pretoria packed with travellers ahead of the national lockdown. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Factory owner locks in staff to produce Covid-19 masks

Durban – A Durban based factory has been caught forcing employees to work overtime and sleep at the premises in order to produce masks needed for the Covid-19 crisis.

The discovery was made on Sunday by inspectors from the KZN department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs’ Consumer Protection Unit.

According to the department’s MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, someone blew the whistle and the inspectors promptly swooped on the business Chen Lu and the owner of the factory was arrested as the workers were allegedly subjected to inhumane working conditions.

“The owner of the factory has been arrested and inspectors from the Department of Employment and Labour are conducting an investigation. This is in relation to the violation of the Conditions of Employment, and Occupational and Safety Act.

I applaud labour inspectors and members of the South African Police Services for working with our officials in restoring the dignity of these workers. The workers are currently being transported by SAPS to various townships in the Greater Durban area,” the MEC said.

The 14 employees were mainly from Kwamashu, Ntuzuma and Umlazi townships within Durban.

Dube-Ncube also voiced displeasure that security guards employed by KZN Crime Extinguishers to guard the factory harassed and pointed automatic rifles at the inspectors and she since asked law enforcement agencies to investigate the company.

“Critically, I wish to condemn security guards employed by KZN Crime Extinguishers for harassing and pointing automatic rifles at our officials. I have implored law enforcement agencies to investigate this company. Importantly, they must ascertain whether a Chinese national, who was carrying an automatic rifle and harassing government officials, has the necessary permit. He must also be charged for defeating the ends of justice.

“I wish to reiterate today that our position as the department has not changed. We will continue to enforce our zero-tolerance policy towards price gougers who are using the Coronavirus outbreak to sell much-needed food and other products at inflated prices. Turning a blind eye to these injustices will be tantamount to the abdication of our mandate as public representatives,” she said.