WATCH: Foreigners, children found in ‘slave-like’ conditions during Joburg warehouse raids | The Citizen

Piles of blankets litter the entrance of a dank, dust-filled illegal textile warehouse in Industria West, Johannesburg.

Among heavy machinery used to turn tatters of material into blankets resembling those used by prisoners are signs of life, while JMPD and labour department officials take turns to inspect squalid living conditions unfit for any human being.

Watch footage of the raids:

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‘Slave-like’ conditions

These were just some of the scenes of a disturbing multi-disciplinary raid launched by the City of Johannesburg’s environmental health services, involving City Power, the JMPD, the CRUM department, Building Control and the Department of Labour, that took place on Wednesday morning in a building on Wright Street many assumed had been closed for years.

Scraps of blankets in a warehouse on 2 November 2022. Photo: Nica Richards

“We were targeting recycling companies (offensive traders), food handling business and manufacturers,” City of Johannesburg deputy communications director Nthatisi Modingoane explained.

The goal was for public health bylaws and the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act to be enforced.

With windows boarded up and ominous palisade fencing, despite the amount of foot and vehicle traffic this industrial road receives on a daily basis, one could be forgiven for not knowing the truth about what transpired behind closed doors.

One JMPD official labelled the illegal operation’s setup “nothing less than slave-like”, with another grimacing while inspecting living quarters.

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He gingerly opened the curtain and took us on a brief tour of the narrow corridor lined with old sheets.

Here, in a space hardly big enough for one person to sleep in, at least 10 makeshift beds housed employees to rest in between working throughout the day and night.

WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
The living conditions of employees illegally in SA. Photo: Nica Richards

50 illegal immigrants from Malawi were arrested by the JMPD and taken to Langlaagte police station for processing. They will soon be transferred to John Vorster police station.

At one of the factories, there were 25 people living and working in a facility, children included, evidence found.

When the JMPD first arrived at the scene, labourers scattered, scaling metres-high walls to avoid being arrested.

Unhygienic food

Just a few minutes away, in Fulton Street, raids continued at a warehouse producing an array of dodgy foodstuffs, ranging from biscuits to sauces and crisps.

Ingredients bought in bulk from overseas are not SANS compliant, and a number of goods were confiscated to be tested.

They are produced en masse using high tech, heavy-duty equipment one would see in a formalised factory.

WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
Photo: Nigel Sibanda

But in this case, the equipment sits randomly in a large warehouse, interspersed with sarcastically huge bags of flour.

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Ablution facilities are located right next to massive pots of sauce, with only two sinks in the entire facility.

Three small cubicles with leaking toilets are used by more than 40 employees.

Workers said water pressure issues meant they were unable to shower.

WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
Photo: Nigel Sibanda
WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
Photo: Nigel Sibanda

As a result of the lack of water pressure, bottled water is also allegedly being produced to be sold using borehole water.

In a narrow, leaky alleyway behind the warehouse, workers are made to sleep in windowless rooms.

WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
Where employees were forced to sleep. Photo: Nigel Sibanda

City Power cut the building’s electricity due to repeated non-payments, after previously being prevented from entering the property.

The owner was previously fined R30 000, which he paid gladly, sources told The Citizen.

20 fines for the contravention of R638, relating to regulations on hygiene requirements for food premises, were issued, and a prohibition order issued.

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One of the businesses was even issued with an order to cease operations due to health risks.

19 foodstuffs were also taken for analysis.

WATCH: Illegal warehouses raided in industrial Joburg
One of the products confiscated by authorities. Photo: Nigel Sibanda

Videos by Shaun Holland.

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