The government is considering new regulations regarding the employment of foreign nationals in South Africa, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has said.
Speaking to eNCA on Tuesday, Nxesi nevertheless said foreign nationals who are legally in the country, such as refugees, have a right to seek employment because South Africa is a signatory to various regional and international immigration treaties.
The Minister was reacting to the truck drivers strike that happened in some parts of South Africa on Tuesday in protest against claims that foreign nationals were being employed as truck drivers ahead of locals.
He said, “We are in the process of looking into new regulations in relation to the employment of foreign nationals. We are saying it’s not only the road and freight sector – we are talking about the hospitality industry, restaurants, security and farming and agriculture.
“So, we are looking at this matter in a proper way. Remember, we can’t just do away with them [because] some of them are refugees and legally, they are supposed to be here. The issue we have to deal with is the illegal people who have been employed without any papers from Home Affairs.”
Nxesi added that the government disagrees with demands by some associations in the truck drivers strike for a total ban on the employment of foreign nationals in the sector.
“Those who are refugees, they have all the rights in this country to employment and so on. What we are saying now [is that] our law needs to be specific in terms of the regulations and say, in this sector, it might not be necessary to employ any foreigner.
“In other sectors, you might open and if you open, the ratios might be like that. That’s the debate we are having,” Nxesi explained.
South Africa’s ‘new economy’
Nxesi’s comments echo those made by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in April when he spoke about building South Africa’s “new economy” beyond the lockdown.
Mboweni said in this new economy, businesses must employ more South Africans than non-South Africans. “The government would have to put in place labour market policies which are supportive of the increased employment of South African youth without discriminating non-South Africans,” he said.
He gave the example of restaurants, which he said employed 80 percent South Africans in 1990 but now employ “almost 100 percent” non-South Africans.
The Minister added, “So, the new economy must answer that question, that any establishment wanting to reopen must have a new labour market policy which prioritises South Africans, but does not discriminate against Zimbabweans or Malawians.
“The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans. That’s the new economy that we’re talking about.”