The Departments of Labour and Home Affairs have promised to step up their inspections in Hangklip-Kleinmond while the Hangklip-Kleinmond Working Group will meet with local businesses on 11 February, to get feedback on a working proposal that legal foreign employees should not make up more than 30% of a company’s workforce.
These were the two outcomes that were agreed at a meeting held Monday, February 4 at the Kleinmond Public Library, that was attended by Executive Mayor, Dudley Coetzee, Overberg Deputy Mayor, Archie Klaas a number of Overstrand councillors, the police, community and church leaders, officials from the Departments of Labour and Home Affairs, as well as representatives from the Community Policing Forum, the Hangklip-Kleinmond Business Forum and Child Welfare organisations.
The Monday meeting, chaired by Western Cape Member of the Provincial Parliament, Masizole Mnqasela, was only agreed to late on Sunday evening following a weekend of intensive discussions between the Hangklip-Kleinmond Working Group, community leaders and residents, after a call went out on Tuesday, January 29, that all foreigners from other parts of Africa must leave the area by the weekend.
According to Mnqasela, who is also a member of the Working Group, “You could cut the fear the foreigners were feeling with a knife.” In the end, agreement was reached to have an expanded meeting with officials from the Departments of Labour and Home Affairs and the Hangklip-Kleinmond Business Forum, and to report back on the Monday evening to residents who predominantly live in Overhills.
In his opening statements, Mnqasela said, “It is a reality that locals are prejudiced when it comes to work opportunities. Let the foreigners work alongside the locals, but let them be in the minority, as they are in the community. While employers are welcome to employ whoever they like, the point is that we need fairness.”
Overstrand Councillor Simphiwe Tebele echoed these sentiments. “I think the plea to the Business Forum is to sensitize its members that just because they are driven by profit and likely to choose the cheaper labour option, they must still understand how important it is to have the right mix and develop local talent.”
Later on, in discussions, Tebele added that Council had learned lessons from past protests. “We are dealing with this thing before it comes to a boil and gets out of hand,” he said.
Deon Brits, the Vice-Chair of the Hangklip-Kleinmond Business Forum said, “We are committed to a fair process and that everyone who owns a business here sticks to the law.”
In response to how they would be able to increase inspections, the Department of Home Affairs said that they only have three immigration inspectors to cover the whole Overberg while the Department of Labour said that they have six inspectors plus a team leader to carry out their work. Both, however, said that they would be calling on additional resources in the short-term to step up their work in Hangklip-Kleinmond.
The meeting with local businesses, the Hangklip-Kleinmond Business Forum and the Working Group will be held at 19:00 at the Proteadorp Community Hall, Kleinmond on February 11, 2019.
■ The 30% maximum employment of foreign workers in Kleinmond is only a proposal for discussion right now and could change after further discussions. Currently, South African legislation does not specify how many foreigners a company may employ. It only states that foreigners must have the proper legal documentation, including residence and work visas. However, according to officials from the Departments of Labour and Home Affairs, they have frameworks which they use to aid them in their decision-making processes. For labour, at least 60% of employees should be locals. For Home Affairs, the split is 50%. However, according to Home Affairs’ framework, if a foreigner sets up a business in the country, they need to first employ at least five South Africans before they can employ a foreigner.
“This is the start of a process. It is not in the law. But it is something we are talking about to calm the situation. We are starting this process hoping that this will be a model for others to follow,” said Mnqasela, acknowledging that there isn’t a lot of guidance that can be followed in dealing with the employment of foreigners who are legally in the country.
■ Work permits are normally granted to foreigners to work at specific companies in a specific role and are not transferable unless permission has been given for the change by government.
■ If a foreigner is arrested for being in the country illegally, the employer can also be charged. Likewise, if a landlord rents a dwelling to someone who is in the country illegally, they can also be charged. An employer or landlord cannot claim ignorance of the law.
■ An immigration inspector does not need to give prior notice of their visit. They do, however, have to immediately introduce themselves and state the purpose of their visit. Home Affairs cannot actually arrest anyone. Only the South African Police Service (SAPS) can do so. Immigration officials are not allowed to enter a residential dwelling unless they have a court order.
■ In terms of their Standard Operating Procedures, the Department of Labour needs to give notification of their intention to visit and the business must acknowledge that they have received notification.
“Immigration is the sniffer dogs and Labour does the due diligence,” said Mnqasela, to distinguish the roles of the two government departments.