Work halts after arrest of engineers from China

2013-09-18 00:00

PRODUCTION is on hold at Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing in Mkondeni while eight of the company’s engineers remain in custody on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.

The engineers were arrested last week after a search conducted by the Home Affairs Department and a police task team.

Dumisani Mabaso, who works at the factory as a cleaner, told The Witness that the Chinese engineers were here to teach employees how to operate the company’s machines. However, all operations had stopped since their arrest.

Ibrahim Shaik, of the NGO Crisis and Disaster Centre, is assisting the engineers. He said they were in the country to transfer skills to more than 60 employees of the factory.

“They are here to transfer skills to the locals as no one in the country is qualified to operate the machines, which were bought in China,” Shaik said, adding production had stopped as the machines cannot be operated without them.

Yesterday, the company and its attorneys met with the police, the Chinese consul-general in Durban and the Crisis and Disaster Centre.

Consul-General Diao Mingsheng said they had visited the engineers in custody and were giving them assistance.

The engineers are due to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court today.

Their arrest prompted a protest by the company’s staff outside the Home Affairs offices in the CBD on Monday.

Mabaso said the staff were concerned that their wages would be lower this month because of the reduced hours of work.

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