Police have said that the 50 Ethiopian men rescued from a house in Zakariyya Park, near Lenasia, Gauteng, were kidnapped for money.
A team of undercover officers rescued the men on Friday and it was initially believed that the men were trafficked from East Africa.
According to News24, police said the men were brought into South Africa to be reunited with family members that were already in the country. A man then allegedly refused to release them unless their families gave him money.
“They were brought into South Africa to be reunited with their families living in the country. On their arrival, the person who transported them demanded money from their families before release,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili.
Some of the lights in the house had been removed to keep suspicious neighbours in the dark. According to police the youngest victim is 12 years old, while the oldest is 50.
A neighbour said they assumed a taxi owner owned the house because there were always minibus taxis arriving at the property.
“I used to see these boys leaving the house at night,” the neighbour added.
“They would leave around 9pm daily and started running around our neighbourhood. I silently followed them to see where they were running to. They ran barefooted,” the neighbour said.
On Friday, police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said the victims would be profiled to “establish their countries of origin” and how they ended up in Zakariyya Park.
One suspect has been arrested.