Labour union backs Zim man set on fire, tortured

2008-09-18 00:00

Labour union leaders in the province have expressed their shock at the state of a Zimbabwean mechanic who was allegedly tortured and burnt by his bosses in the Willowton industrial area.

KZN Cosatu leaders visited Ian Madzogo (23) in hospital, where he is slowly recovering from severe burns. Cosatu provincial secretary Zet Luzipo said the incident was a human rights violation and a “criminal act”.

Madzogo alleges that two brothers, who were his employers, tied him up and tortured him by burning his private parts with a candle, and then set him alight.

They had accused Madzogo of stealing diesel, an allegation he denies. “They said I must [tell them I had stolen it] and if I didn’t talk, they would kill me. I told them I was not hiding anything. If I had something to say I would have told them before they burnt my private parts.”

Having failed to get a confession out of him, the brothers later doused him with thinners before setting him alight. “I was burning from my feet to my head. I managed to free myself from the ropes, take off my burning vest and I ran to the shower.”

While in the shower, Madzogo said one of his bosses said: “Now it is becoming a big story; why don’t we shoot him?”.

Luzipho slammed the alleged actions of Madzogo’s employers.

“It’s shocking, and a criminal act. We want the police to get to the bottom of this. This man left his country because of human rights violations there. I don’t think he expected the worst to happen here. These are criminals who disguise themselves as businessmen, because if they are serious about business, they would know what damage this would cause to their business.”

He said Cosatu is interested in Madzogo’s case because there are a number of employers who reportedly exploit refugees in South Africa.

“Some of the employers are abusing the opportunity of being in business by exploiting refugees because they have no work permits. This is despicable. We call on the [Labour Department] to take the harshest decisions on this matter.”

It is alleged that Madzogo’s company employs more than 35 people (most of them Zimbabweans) without any contracts or conditions of employment.

SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said an investigation into the incident is under way. “We are taking statements from various witnesses and our case is tight,” he said.

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