Abducted Ethiopian men: 'I have never seen such a thing' - neighbour recalls dramatic Midrand raid

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Gauteng police rescued 33 Ethiopian nationals who were allegedly held against their will on a plot in Midrand.
Gauteng police rescued 33 Ethiopian nationals who were allegedly held against their will on a plot in Midrand.
  • On Friday there was no movement at a plot in Austin View, Midrand, where police rescued 33 abducted Ethiopian men the day before.
  • The property has allegedly been used to house foreign nationals who are sold to local business people.
  • One arrest was made.

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.

"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.

I have never so many people coming out of a single house. Even at our parties, we can't accommodate so many people. A police officer later told me that the house was used to keep trafficked foreigners.

"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.

ALSO READ | Two arrested for kidnapping after 11 Ethiopian nationals found in Soweto storage facility

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.

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