Parly awaits bill on quotas for hiring foreigners
Greedy companies exploit migrant workers, ANC says
As the ANC in Gauteng rallies for quotas on hiring of foreign nationals, the portfolio committee on labour says it is yet to consider a draft bill introduced publicly last year seeking to amend the law to limit the employment of immigrants.
On Wednesday, Gauteng ANC called on the private sector to cap the number of foreigners it employs considering the unemployment crisis in SA. The party further voiced concerns about the number of foreigners it said were employed within the hospitality sector. It blamed this on what it said was “greed” by private companies which sought to exploit migrant workers.
The party’s call comes nearly a year and 10 months since Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi gazetted the draft National Labour Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill.
The bill seeks to put limitations on the hiring of foreign nationals and provides the minister with legal power to introduce quotas on any sector of the economy on their hiring. Public comments on the bill were opened in February and closed in May last year but its introduction to parliament has yet to take place.
Department of employment and labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said the public inputs in the bill were still being considered and that it was submitted to cabinet. He could not comment on the parliamentary process.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee on employment and labour Mary-Ann Lindelwa Dunjwa told Sowetan yesterday that the committee was yet to be formally briefed on the bill.
“We can’t really say more until we have been introduced to it,” she said. She explained that the process started with public comments and then the bill being taken to cabinet before being introduced to parliament.
She said once introduced in parliament, the committee would look at it and invite people to respond to it and then deliberate.
Committee member Mncedisi Nontsele said Nxesi had made pronouncements that the bill would be introduced anytime from now. He said he supported the bill and what it sought to do but he was not allowed to comment further until it was formally introduced.
Gauteng ANC spokesperson Lesego Makhubela said the problem was not foreigners but “unpatriotic South Africans who are business owners and CEOs” who employ them [foreigners] for exploitation.
“You cannot hire a foreign national as a petrol attendant and say that that foreigner possesses a rare skill, whereas that skill is available in the country,” he said. “In terms of the law, companies that try to employ foreigners must employ those who have rare skills and must be able to prove that the skill isn’t available in the country. The immigration act prohibits the employment of undocumented immigrants, and managers who do that must be arrested for the crime.”
He said the party had started conversations with the department of employment and labour on mechanisms and how they could strengthen oversight roles that had to be played by labour inspectors.
“And so, we aren't talking... we are moving into the implementation of getting these processes done,” he said.
Labour law expert Andrew Levy said there was no limitation on how many foreigners employers could hire in the current law. He said employers were required to always have a justification for each one.
Senior researcher at the Centre for Analytic and Behavoural Change Euston Witbooi said there had been an increase in the use of foreign nationals as a political tactic since March. He said the sentiment had heightened, especially in the aftermath of the Marshalltown fire and in the build-up to the 2024 national elections.
“It would appear as though xenophobia (and the foreign national conversation in general) has now become prominent within the South African political conversation with every political party making their stance known, especially the ANC, who have previously been relatively quiet in this conversation,” he said. “It is worth noting that perpetrators of the anti-immigrant narrative have exploited the lack of accurate statistics on, for example, the number of immigrants in SA, the alleged crimes committed by immigrants and employment statistics to spread mis- and disinformation.”
In its submission in response to the draft amendment bill in May last year, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) said there was lack of rational basis for ministerial quota system. It said it was encouraged that the bill made provision for equal treatment of foreign nationals and South African citizens in the labour market.
“In summary, the HSF submits that the bill represents an unworkable and, in all likelihood, unlawful interference in South African labour markets and in lives of foreign nationals lawfully residing in SA and who have been granted the right to work here,” said director Nicole Friz her submission.
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