Johannesburg, Mar 30 (PTI) A Chinese national, who forced employees to manufacture masks during the 21-day national lockdown in South Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has been arrested.
Ming Lai He, the owner of Chen Lu factory in Durban, appeared in court on Monday after he was arrested at his factory a day earlier.
Lai He was granted 200,000 Rand bail and will appear in court again on June 20, 2020.
Inspectors from the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs' Consumer Protection Unit raided the factory after receiving information that Lai He was allegedly forcing workers to manufacture masks in contravention to his licence conditions.
Under the regulations governing the 21-day lockdown, now in its fourth day, only essential goods and services can continue to operate.
Lai He's factory is reportedly licensed to manufacture fragrances, which are not considered to be essential goods.
Lai He faces charges of forcing employees to work overtime and sleep on the factory premises to produce the masks, of which there is a national shortage due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Accordiong to the lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, only employees of companies producing essential goods may go to work, while all others must self-isolate at home.
A statement issued by the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Durban said that Lai He's company had been set up specifically to help the local community fight the virus.
"The company, which has provided over 200 jobs in its other businesses across the province and South Africa, commits itself to donating all facial masks to be manufactured in the factory during the lockdown period and none would be used for sale," the statement said.
But Natasha Kara, the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal province, where the factory is based, confirmed that Lai He is facing three charges.
"He faces charges of forced labour… failure to maintain a safe working environment and failing to lockdown a non-essential business, as his business was listed as a fragrance company," Kara said.
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