A Chinese captain of a cargo vessel and his crew threw two Tanzanian stowaways into the Indian Ocean in South Africa over fears of contracting the novel coronavirus from the Africans.
The duo – Hassani Rajabu, 30, and Amiri Salamu, 20, – were rescued offshore on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. They were given only two bottles of drinking water and a life jacket to swim to safety after they were tossed off the vessel near the mouth of the Tugela River where hammerheads, tiger, and bull sharks are known to hunt, the New York Post reported.
Africa has so far 27,385 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan with 1,297 deaths and 8,172 recoveries.
Director operations at IPPS Medical Rescue, Paul Herbst told the Times Live the men were rescued three days after their chilling ordeal on the Panama-registered cargo vessel. Herbst said they were severely assaulted before being tossed into the sea after the vessel left the Durban harbor.
The South African Maritime Safety Agency contacted the vessel, MV Top Grace, by radio immediately it received news of the Tanzanian stowaways and confiscated the 600-foot-long ship when it docked further north up the coast. The captain and his six-member crew when then arrested.
The Captain and his crew Lin Xinyong, Zou Yongxian, Tan Yian, Xie Wenbin, Xu Kun, and Mu Yong pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder at Durban Magistrates Court last Thursday.
The Captain Rongli was fined $5,361 and each of the crewmen $2,680 in a plea bargain agreement ratified by the magistrate Garth Davis.
“The accused became wary of the men and asked them to wear face masks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The men refused to wear the face masks.
“They gave them food and water, and put them into a separate room, as they did not know their COVID-19 status and feared for the rest of the crew. The two men demanded to know the vessel’s destination,” South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson, Natasha Kara said as quoted by Times Live.
This is coming barely three weeks after concerns of Chinese officials evicting hundreds of African residents and businessmen from hotels and apartments as they are being accused of having the novel coronavirus.
The Africans say they are just being targeted under the guise of a testing campaign for the global pandemic also known as COVID-19. Some of them alleged that they have been placed under forced quarantine without being told about the results of their tests.
The Africans, who are based in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, have described the development as discriminatory. “They are accusing us of having the virus,” a Nigerian student, Tobenna Victor, was quoted by the BBC.
China denied the claims saying: “We do not have discrimination in China against African brothers.”
“China and Africa are good friends, partners, and brothers. Our friendship is forged on the basis of joint efforts to seek national independence, liberation, economic development, and better livelihood in the past decades,” a statement, by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.