SA government comes after companies hiring undocumented workers

by Christine Mhundwa

South Africa takes drastic measures to make sure that companies employing foreign nationals comply with the law.

In a bid to expel all undocumented workers in South Africa, the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs will be beefing up its immigration inspectorate to investigate companies employing foreign nationals without the correct documentation.

The exercise will see the government spend over 100 million rand over the next three years.

Speaking at a press briefing in Pretoria on Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said that his department would be spending a sum of 118 million rand over the next three years to recruit immigration inspectors who will conduct raids on companies.

“We will start with recruiting 70 immigration inspectors in this financial year and we will increase that gradually in the next financial years so that we have sufficient capacity,” said Gigaba.

The inspectors will add to an existing staff base which Gigaba said needs more man power because there is a lot of work to be done.

“We need to look at different sectors of the South Africa economy, the retail sector, the construction sector, the agricultural sector, the hospitality sector – particularly restaurants, to ensure that they comply with South African legislation,” the Minister said.

The officers will be conducting raids where they will assess whether foreign nationals employed at companies are certified to work in South Africa, Gigaba added that the inspectorates, “Will also investigate whether companies, particularly owned by foreign nationals, have certificates to operate in South Africa”.

The minister said while most undocumented immigrants are hired at low level jobs, corporate South Africa, is also contravening the laws by hiring foreign nationals not in accordance to the visa’s which they would have been awarded.

“Somebody comes to South Africa as visitor and then the company suddenly employs them on a long-term basis and then comes to us to say this person - who came to us a visitor – should be given a critical skills visa or a corporate skills visa.”

Gigaba told CNBC Africa that government will be announcing a new capacitated corporate desk in the Home Affairs Department to assist companies. He also said that the department will partner with the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency to work with corporates in ensuring that they comply with the immigration legislation.

He said that the effort is to protect immigrants who become vulnerable when hired in breach of labour legislation.

“[Due to the fact that] immigrants are employed at lesser wages and outside the framework of the labour relations legislation they are therefore always put at an advantage when employment is concerned against South Africans but at the same time they are disadvantaged in that they earn less, they have no legal protection and cannot even receive the protection of unions when they are being victimised and exploited at work.”

Gigaba added that all immigrants with work visa are to be employed in terms of the Basic Conditions Employment Act.

The Minister said while all undocumented workers will be deported, there are also consequences for employers too.

“Companies will be fined or prosecuted, we will take legal action against those companies.”

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