In the early hours of a Wednesday morning, Northmead, Benoni, witnessed a crucial breakthrough in a case of alleged human trafficking. Two individuals were arrested after a distressing revelation that 26 Ethiopian men had been subjected to a harrowing four-month ordeal, held against their will on a property. This revelation surfaced when several of these men managed to escape their captors, promptly notifying the authorities of their dire circumstances.
Nomsa Sekele, a spokesperson for the Benoni SAPS, shed light on the operation that led to these arrests. Acting on a tip-off, law enforcement responded to reports of Ethiopians being confined within a guest house. Subsequent investigations revealed the shocking truth – a total of 26 Ethiopians were indeed held captive within the premises. Additionally, a Malawian national was discovered on-site, functioning as a detainee guard.
Sekele said this captive cohort had endured nearly four months of captivity. They had been lured to the country with the promise of employment by a fellow Ethiopian national, only to find themselves locked within the confines of the guest house. As a result of diligent investigative efforts, the orchestrator of this grim operation, referred to as the ‘kingpin’, aged 34, was successfully identified and apprehended. Simultaneously, the 28-year-old guard responsible for maintaining the confinement was also taken into custody. Both individuals will face severe charges of human trafficking, underscoring the gravity of their actions.
The legal proceedings stemming from this case are set to unfold within the chambers of the Benoni Magistrate’s Court. However, it’s noteworthy that none of the men discovered within the house were forcibly brought to South Africa; they now face accusations of being within the country without legal authorisation.
A subsequent visit to the area revealed a tranquil scene, starkly contrasting the turmoil that had transpired the previous night. Investigative journalists made poignant observations by exploring the property where the incident unfolded. Broken windows and damaged burglar bars provided a sombre testament to the struggle that had taken place. Interestingly, certain burglar bars had been reinforced with steel, suggesting desperate attempts to escape. The property’s interior revealed a haunting reality – the living area devoid of furniture, containing only a solitary mattress. The kitchen bore signs of recent activity, with a bag of rice on the floor, unwashed pots on the stove, and chopped onions on the table.
Further inspection led to the discovery of an outside storage room housing steel bars and refuse bags filled with decaying waste and more onions strewn across the floor. An anonymous neighbour recounted their harrowing experience, recounting sounds of shattering glass from the adjacent property at midnight on Tuesday. Four figures fleeing into their yard sent shockwaves through the household, leading them to alert the local security company, Super Cops. However, a subsequent inspection yielded no immediate evidence.
As the night wore on, a second commotion drew the neighbour’s attention, revealing a scuffle and the escape of another man who was later apprehended by authorities. When the police eventually gained entry to the property, the shocking extent of the captives’ plight was unveiled. A neighbour’s account was corroborated by Super Cops in a statement, affirming that the individuals detained against their will had managed to escape through a broken burglar bar and window, demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit even in the face of such adversity.
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Photo: Supplied by Citizen