Durban – Several foreign nationals have been arrested for illegally operating a factory in Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal, and in separate incidents other people were also arrested for contravening the coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations and large amounts of liquor were confiscated, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said on Sunday.
“A large group of foreign nationals were arrested for residing on and operating a factory in Tongaat, north of Durban,” SAPS national spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo said in a statement.
On Thursday, April 16, a complaint about the operation on Walter Reid Road in Tongaat was received and attended to by SAPS officers. On arrival, however, the officers found the premises locked and quiet.
On Friday, April 17, the local police station commander received further information that the factory was going to be operational at the weekend and that people were living on the premises.
On Saturday, a SAPS team was put together and they proceeded to the factory at 12noon. On initial observation, the factory appeared to be closed from the outside, but machine noises were heard coming from the inside of the premises, he said.
“No activity could be seen around the premises. At that moment, two foreigners opened the roller door of the factory. They were questioned about their presence there and they said that they were merely fetching welding machines.”
When they were informed that they were to be charged for contravening the disaster management regulations for not being confined to their residences in terms of the Disaster Management Act, they attempted to flee and were arrested.
The officers entered the premises and found over 90 sealed beer bottles, over 90 beer cans, and over 100 cartons of cigarettes on the premises, Naidoo said.
“Three other foreign nationals were also found on the premises. They said they could not account for the alcohol and cigarettes, stating it could belong their employer. They further confirmed that all the other employees, who were also foreigners, had gone back to their homeland and one SA employee had gone to Johannesburg.
“They denied that there were any other persons on the premises. While inspecting the premises, the team discovered several dormitories with undone beds and cellphone chargers still plugged in the wall sockets. When asked again … the three denied anyone else being on the premises. A large kitchen and dining area was also found to be fully stocked with food, which seemed too much for only three persons, raising further suspicion,” Naidoo said.
Further inspection of the premises revealed an internal door opening to a fire escape staircase leading to the ceiling. Eight foreign nationals were found hiding inside the ceiling. Three more foreign nationals were subsequently found hiding within the premises.
All the suspects were arrested for contravening of the Disaster Management Act and Immigration Act. The first three suspects were also charged for defeating the ends of justice.
A computer hard drive containing camera footage was also seized to check for evidence that the factory was in fact operational during the lockdown, and the alcohol and cigarettes were seized.
All the suspects were currently detained. Home affairs department immigration service officials were summoned to verify whether the suspects were legally in the country, as only nine passports were found and their work permits looked questionable. The suspects were also taken to the local Tongaat Clinic for Covid-19 screening, Naidoo said.
In two separate incidents in other parts of KwaZulu-Natal, three people had been arrested for dealing in liquor. Large amounts of liquor had also been confiscated despite strict warnings against this.
In Port Shepstone, on Friday April 17, officers of the K9 unit arrested two people, a buyer and seller, and seized liquor worth millions of rand. On Saturday, SAPS units and the metro police tactical unit disrupted liquor sales at a bottle store in Bartlet Road, Sarnia in Pinetown.
A variety of liquor and cigarettes to the value of R250 000 were seized and a suspect was arrested. The same suspect was previously released on bail for the same offence, Naidoo said.
African News Agency/ANA