WORKERS building a luxury hotel on the Cape Town beachfront say they are forced to use the "dompas" system when they want to use the toilet.
The 36 mainly Zimbabwean workers claim they were also assaulted at the Realcor Cape construction company site and were banned from entering "white" offices.
When Sowetan visited the site for the new Radisson Blu Blaauwberg Beach Hotel on Cape Town's beach front Bloubergstrand suburb this week, several workers claimed they had to seek paper "passes" before they could use the toilet.
Worker Ben Mandizera added: "They call us baboons."
According to refugee rights group People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), Simon Karairwa had told them a foreman recently punched him twice in the face.
The Zimbabweans said when they complained about the conditions, the white foremen threatened to have them deported.
Last year they approached the Department of Labour for help, but were told to sort out the issue with their employer, they said.
Gerald Vasco, a bricklayer from Mozambique, said he was offered R24 an hour, but was instead paid just R18 an hour.
Another Zimbabwean, too afraid to identify himself, said he had broken his hand on the job but the firm was refusing to compensate him.
"I really need help. I don't know what to do," he said.
Workers said they had been on site for 18 months and expected to stay until the hotel was completed.
But they alleged they had been asked to sign notices agreeing that their jobs would end on March 24.
They have refused to sign, saying they "did not see it coming".
The workers also alleged that the firm owed them money as they were promised R18 an hour, but were paid only R13 an hour.
The site director, who identified himself only as Jacques, called the police to remove Sowetan and Passop's Braam Hanekom from the site. "Go back and work for (President Robert) Mugabe," he barked.
He told Sowetan the workers' allegations were untrue and accused the workers of using vulgar language and of assaulting his staff.
He said the workers were well treated.
The Radisson hotel group referred Sowetan to public relations director Marcus Brewster.
Brewster said the Radisson group was not responsible for the hotel until construction was finished.
Realcor Cape confirmed that Jacques de Ridder is the site manager.
Realcor's Lionel Lelyveld denied that a "dompas" system existed.
"A building site can be dangerous. Realcor needs to know at all times where employees are," he said.
"If they use the toilet, they need to sign a book."
He denied that management assaulted the workers, saying the only assault De Ridder knew about was "between a Xhosa gentleman and a Zimbabwean gentleman".
He said De Ridder was available to assist workers. "If they are prepared to ask him for a loan, they would have no problem reporting an assault to him."
Lelyveld denied that any "white" offices exist.
He admitted that De Ridder had told workers that if they were unhappy, "perhaps Mr Mugabe would have jobs for them".
He said De Ridder had had a meeting with workers after Sowetan's visit, which "ended on a positive note".