Friday, 04 March
04 Dec 2021
On Friday, a plot in Austin View in Midrand, where police found and freed 33 abducted Ethiopian nationals on Thursday, appeared mostly deserted.
Inside the yard, there were a few vehicles, including luxury SUVs.
Behind the main house, a fence was used to barricade backrooms.
A neighbour said he witnessed the movement of people in and out of the property.
The owner of the backrooms, he said, leased them to foreign shop owners, he said.
“Those tenants had been living in the property for a while. They usually leave in the morning and return at night. They own spaza shops around nearby townships,” the neighbour, who declined to be identified, added.
Working on info received from CI 1x Ethiopian National arrested & 33x Human Trafficking Victims (Ethiopian Nationals) rescued in Glen Austin, Midrand by #JMPD K9 Unit together with #SAPS Highway Patrol. Suspect detained at Midrand SAPS & Victims taken to a place of safety. pic.twitter.com/puQqXAKbPT
“What I had seen on Thursday had left me shocked and scared. I have never seen such a thing before. I don’t know when the victims were brought into the property.
“What I know is that there was a man who occupied the main house. I didn’t think that the tenant was capable of such a thing,” he added.
The neighbour said some police officers arrived in a convoy of marked and unmarked vehicles. Later, a police helicopter later landed near the property.
“Police knocked at the main gate, and the tenant occupying the main house refused to open for them. They then forcibly gained access to the property and headed to the place where the victims were found.
“We are not safe anymore. We live behind high walls, and it is difficult to observe what is happening in our yard. I want to applaud the police for their sterling job. I wish they could continue raiding this house for any suspicious behaviour,” the neighbour said.
READ | The 50 Ethiopian nationals rescued in Johannesburg were kidnapped for money – police
It is alleged that the 33 foreigners were part of of a group of 80 Ethiopians who were kept against their will.
Earlier reports indicated that 40 females and 40 males were kept at the property.
However, when the police arrived, the others had already been taken away, allegedly by the business people who bought them. It is believed that the buyers are also Ethiopian and that they own spaza shops in South Africa.
Some of them had been sold for R17 000 each.
News24 understands that the foreigners work for no remuneration.
The 33 men appeared frail and claimed that they had last received food on Sunday.
Officers on the scene arranged food for them.
The victims claimed that they arrived in the country two weeks ago.
Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Molamu said officers followed up on intelligence about suspicious trafficking activities at the property.
Home Affairs officials were also part of the operation.
“Upon arrival, authorities kept surveillance at a positively identified premises and pounced on the suspect who was relaxing just outside the house.
“A thorough search was conducted into the property. Police found and rescued the victims, who were locked up in one room,” Molamu said.
The suspect, an Ethiopian national, was immediately arrested and charged with kidnapping.
Police are looking for the mastermind.
Molamu said the victims were taken to a place of safety for procedural medical observation and treatment.
The person who was arrested is expected to appear in court soon.
SA Money Daily
The biggest business, economic and market news of the day, by Fin24 deputy editor, Ahmed Areff.
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