Durban factory owner arrested after claim workers forced to make masks

Coronavirus in South Africa: complaints over alleged price-gouging lead to police raid

A rickshaw puller on a deserted North beach in Durban after the eThekwini Municipality placed drastic measures on all beaches and swimming pools  to combat the coronavirus  pandemic. Photograph:  Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty

A rickshaw puller on a deserted North beach in Durban after the eThekwini Municipality placed drastic measures on all beaches and swimming pools to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty

 

Police in South Africa have arrested the owner of a business in the city of Durban who locked workers in a factory and allegedly forced them to make masks for six days.

Consumer complaints about alleged price-gouging against the business led to a raid of the mask factory in Glen Anil, where South African Police Service officers found and rescued 14 workers confined there, the BBC reports.

According to local media in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: “No amount of words could ever describe my anger following a shocking report I have just received from officials I assigned to investigate a complaint I received early this morning.”

Ms Dube-Ncube said the 14 workers had been locked up in a factory since Monday last week and “forced to manufacture hundreds of masks to meet the demand caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus”. She said the workers had been subject to “inhumane conditions”.

It was discovered during recent unannounced visits to shops and pharmacies that some were charging customers up to R780 (roughly €40.74) per mask. Ms Dube-Ncube said: “I wish to reiterate today that our position at 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.”

The owner of the factory has been arrested and inspectors from the Department of Employment and Labour are conducting an investigation into the company.