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SA talks tough on undocumented foreigners employed in wholesale, retail sectors

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By Siyabonga Sithole


The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) has issued a stern warning to South African companies that employ undocumented foreigners in their workplaces.

This comes just a month after Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi called for harsher sanctions against business owners who knowingly employed undocumented foreigners.

On Friday, the department said it was concerned about the increasing number of undocumented immigrants employed in the wholesale and retail sectors.

It said it had been forced to implement the Employment Services Act following a recent three-day crackdown in Rustenburg, in North West province.

“The DEL’s inspection and enforcement service has noted with concern the number of undocumented foreign nationals employed in the wholesale and retail sectors.This was revealed during a three-day joint blitz inspection conducted in Rustenburg, North West.

“During the blitz inspections, a total of 20 undocumented foreign nationals were arrested, prompting the department to immediately implement the Employment Services Act. This act demands that an employer make sure that a person employed in South Africa from a foreign country has the relevant work permit and a skill that is not found in the country,” the department said.

The department’s provincial chief inspector, Chris Sithole, said employers found to have contravened the act would be fined and their employees arrested.

“Once an employer is found to have contravened this act, we will fine and charge them, and from these blitzes we had fines amounting to R20 000 for the nine employers found to have employed foreign nationals,” Sithole said.

Following the blitz, Sithole indicated that 54 foreign nationals had been arrested and 120 compliance orders issued for errant employers, who were ordered to get their affairs in order within a stipulated time period.

“These inspections have revealed that most employers are still underpaying their employees. They make illegal deductions, and they do not provide them with payslips and contracts of employment.

“Some employers do not comply with the general safety regulations, while others have not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Compensation Fund. These employers have since been issued with the relevant notices and orders, and are expected to rectify this within the stipulated time frames,” said Sithole.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Cape last month, Motsoaledi called for sanctions against those who knowingly employ undocumented foreigners.

He also suggested that by-laws be implemented to prevent them from operating businesses, and also encouraged parents to register their children to prevent cases such as the one of Thabo Bester.

“Anyone who knowingly employs an illegal foreigner, or a foreigner in violation of this act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable, upon conviction, to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding one year.

“Additionally, a second conviction for such an offence shall be punishable by imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine,” the minister said.