NEWS & ANALYSIS

Joburg businesses wrongfully employing illegal immigrants - Herman Mashaba

Mayor says crisis stems from national govt's failure to guard country's borders

National Government must institute a plan to address employment of illegal immigrants

12 July 2018

Yesterday, I wrote to the Minister of Labour, Hon. Mildred Oliphant, and Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Malusi Gigaba, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the number of businesses in Johannesburg employing undocumented immigrants.

These concerns were once again raised with me during a visit to the Slovo Park community earlier this week.

During my visit to the community, residents complained of how a neighbouring factories were employing undocumented immigrants in contravention of the law.

By employing undocumented immigrants, these business owners are flouting immigration and labour laws and acting against the interest of over just 900 000 residents in Johannesburg who are unemployed.

These businesses also serve to exploit undocumented immigrants, unable to exercise labour rights of their own.

This situation continues to stem from the failures of National Government to guard our borders and address the crisis of illegal immigration in our Country. Johannesburg remains at the epicenter of situation, as many foreign migrants come looking for work.

The rule of law is a principle from which the multi-party government will not compromise. We will only succeed as a City when laws are implemented without fear or favour across our City.

While the onus is on employers to abide by the law, national government have the responsibility to enforce the law and ensure that those businesses who choose to ignore the law face the consequences.

Government intervention is also crucial to preventing the exploitation of undocumented immigrants who, by virtue of their status, can sometimes be forced to work under unsafe conditions.

I trust that the Departments of Labour and Home Affairs, under the leadership of Ministers Oliphant and Gigaba, understand that we as government cannot hide our heads in the sand.

Our residents must know that we take their concerns seriously and are actively addressing them.

By doing so, we open up spaces for healthy dialogue in communities and correct unlawful conduct from unscrupulous business owners.

Ultimately, the causalities of National Government’s inaction will be our poorest residents, and indeed, law-abiding foreign nationals.

Section 38 of the Immigration Act, 13 of 2002 provides that no person shall employ:

- An illegal foreigner;

- A foreigner whose status does not authorise him or her to be employed by such person; or

- A foreigner on terms, conditions or in a capacity different from those contemplated in such foreigner’s status.

In terms of section 38(2) of the Immigration Act, a duty is placed on an employer to make an effort, in good faith, to ensure that no illegal foreigner is employed by it and to ascertain the status or citizenship of the persons it employs.

Section 49(3) of the Immigration Act provides that anyone who knowingly employs an illegal foreigner or a foreigner in violation of the Immigration Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding one year for a first offence.

The intention of this engagement with the two Ministers will be to ensure that efforts to address this issue are stepped up in Johannesburg. It requires the Departments with work with the City and ensure that a plan is in place to identify offending employers and correct the situation.

I trust the Honourable Ministers will give this matter the urgent attention it requires.

Statement issued by Cllr Herman Mashaba, Executive Mayor, City of Joburg, 12 July 2018