Cosatu slams China for importing labour

2010-01-31 09:42

SOUTH AFRICAN trade unions are angry that visas were granted to

more than 50 construction workers from mainland China who are building new

premises for the ­Chinese ­consulate in Cape Town.

Construction began in 2007 and will continue until next


The Department of Home Affairs says technically the Chinese workers

are not working in South Africa because the land on which the consulate is being

built is considered to be ­Chinese territory.

“That’s probably how they got permission (to import foreign

labour),” said Rebecca Bowman of the department this week.

Immigration experts say the law gives the home affairs ministry the

power to grant foreigners the right to reside in the country if ­special

circumstances exist. ­Normally foreigners applying for work ­permits need to

prove that there are no South Africans with the necessary skills to do the


Chinese vice consul Yan Li said this week the Chinese workers had

all been issued with special “staff member of consulate” visas, which are

similar to diplomatic visas.

“The construction has been approved by the South African

government. This includes the plans and the use of (foreign) workers,” she said,

adding it was “normal” for Chinese consulates and embassies to import Chinese

labour for construction projects in foreign countries.

Lesiba Seshoka, spokesperson of the National Union of Mineworkers –

under which the construction industry falls – said the union had lodged a

written complaint with the Department of Labour.

“It is about cheap labour and exploitation,” he said, adding that

­China had a reputation for exploiting workers’ rights.

Page Boikanyo, senior manager for communication in the labour

department, said the department would investigate the matter.

Cosatu national spokesperson Patrick Craven also slammed the

importing of foreign labour.

“We argue strongly against it.

“We hope the South African government finds a way of discouraging

unnecessary employment of foreign ­labour,” he said.

The use of cheap Chinese labour on projects funded by China in

­foreign countries is a growing problem, especially in Africa and Asia, where

poverty is rife and unemployment high.

 – West Cape News

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