Government looks to limit the hiring of foreigners in South Africa, as tensions grow

Provincial and national government authorities are increasingly looking at legislation to limit the hiring of foreigners in South Africa, as anti-immigrant tensions flare-up across the country.

More than 20 trucks were petrol-bombed and destroyed on various roads in the Heidelberg area last week, while protesters marched in Durban on Monday (23 November) calling for foreign nationals to be deported.

Responding to the protests, KZN premier Sihle Zikalala said the Department of Labour and Home Affairs is currently involved in a process of developing legislation that will address employment of non-South Africans in all sectors of the economy, including road freight.

“We must, however, reiterate that we will not allow lawlessness to threaten our economy, more so as we emerge from the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We thus call on those who have grievances to work with us and not to shut down our roads, torch trucks or even resort to attacking truck drivers as has happened before,” he said.

In a July 2020 interview, Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that the new legislation would not be limited to the road and freight sector but also apply to other industries which employ a high number of foreign workers.

These include:

  • The hospitality sector;
  • Restaurants;
  • Security;
  • Farming and agriculture.

“We are looking into this matter in a proper way. However, it is important to remember that we can’t just ‘do away with foreigners’. Some of them are refugees and legally supposed to be here,” he said.

“The issue that we have to deal with is the illegal people which have been employed without any papers from Home Affairs.”

Nxesi said that the country’s labour laws state that South Africans should be given preference, but he noted that some bodies were pushing for a complete ban on foreigners in the trucking sector.

Township workers 

In September 2020, the Gauteng government published the Gauteng Township Economic Development Draft Bill which expressly prohibits foreign nationals from participating in economic activities reserved for citizens of, or persons with ‘permanent residency’ status in South Africa.

“Every citizen of and every person with permanent residency status in the republic has a right to practice his or her trade, occupation or profession of choice freely in the province,” the bill states.

The bill further indicates that a list of business activities will be drawn up which will be exclusively and solely-reserved for ownership and operation by citizens.

This list of business activities may be updated at any point based on a number of guiding principles including:

  • Affirming black people in general and Africans in particular, women, youth and people with disabilities;
  • Growing the economy;
  • Increasing levels of the country’s Gross Domestic Product;
  • Upstream production of primary resources or industrialisation;
  • The exploitation of readily available and developed expertise in the republic;
  • Potential or capacity to absorb a large number of people into employment;
  • Opportunities for on-the-job training for the unskilled and unemployed and new graduates;
  • Opportunities for localisation;
  • Potential to create new streams of revenue to broaden the tax base and revenue of municipalities.

Read: A trucking group has written a letter to president Ramaphosa as attacks continue – here’s what it says

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Government looks to limit the hiring of foreigners in South Africa, as tensions grow