Cell C Chinese workers arrested

2010-11-14 15:47

Johannesburg - Sixteen Chinese workers sub-contracted to build cellphone company Cell C's high-speed 4G network were detained in Durban for allegedly having invalid work permits, the home affairs department said on Sunday.

"We inspected 16 work permits at the ZTE Corporation's premises in Durban on Thursday, after receiving a complaint from someone about the validity of permits for workers in from China," home affairs inspectorate spokesperson Modiri Matthews told Sapa.

"We detained 16 people for further investigation... our system has to be checked and investigations are continuing... no charges or arrests have been made."

Home affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the raid in Durban also resulted in the arrest of a home affairs official.

"It is our understanding that the arrest was related to the officer bringing foreigners into the country."

The raids on ZTE in Durban, as well as in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, were a joint effort between home affairs, the immigration inspectorate and police, he said.

The Sunday Times had reported that Chinese telecoms company ZTE Corporation was under investigation for allegedly bringing hundreds of illegal workers into the country every month.

R2.9bn contract

It reported that ZTE had won a Cell C contract worth R2.9bn in January to roll out its high-speed network.

In a statement Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said the company had entered into a contract with ZTE to expand its network in the southern parts of South Africa. He said Cell C, however, was not responsible for the employee matters of its subcontractors.

"The contract between Cell C and ZTE is a "turnkey" contract. This means that ZTE as an independent contractor... is accountable for engaging its own employees and sub-contractors.

"Cell C is not responsible for the recruitment policies or processes of ZTE."

Reichelt said he had only become aware of allegedly illegal Chinese workers when he was approached with questions by the Sunday newspaper.

"Cell C has asked ZTE to urgently provide it with information in this regard and has since been assured by ZTE that all of its workers have the necessary legal documentation to work in South Africa."

Applications delayed

ZTE spokesperson Chris Fuentes said it was a ZTE, and not a Cell C matter. The company had applied to home affairs a while ago to have work permits extended for its Chinese workers.

"It seems our applications were delayed... there is a major problem with the department... after the World Cup, home affairs was on strike," Fuentes said.

"It is not just us, but many multinational companies which have their applications delayed. What happened is that our people came here with a 90-day visa. We then asked for work permits. Even when the visas expired, the permits were not processed.

"What we perhaps should have done is promoted dialogue with the department, voicing our concerns and challenges that we had experienced with delays."

Fuentes said with such a short turnaround time for their contract they had been forced to look for workers from various places. They had not been trying to promote using only Chinese labourers.

Fuentes denied reports that 16 people had been detained. He said only three were detained in Durban because they did not have their passports on them. They were released soon after producing them. A person at the company's Cape Town branch was detained and released on Thursday.

"Right now we are collecting information to send out a release showing all our people are completely legal."

Importing labour

The Congress of SA Trade Unions said there was no justification for importing labour from overseas when unemployment in South Africa was so high.

"I am sure there are South African workers with the requisite skills," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told Sapa.

If there weren't any people skilled enough, locals should be trained.

"It's outrageous. If the allegations are true, we can say it is tantamount to human trafficking... labour brokering on a global scale."

  • trevorcharlesmiller - 2010-11-14 16:37

    Wonder what Trevor Noah has to say now?

  • Carolyn - 2010-11-14 17:31

    I think this stinks, there are thousands of South Africans without jobs, and this bloddy company has the audacity to import Chinese, (cheap labour) but who is feeding them and housing them (the tax payer, or the Cell C contractors.) Send them home before you see more genocide in this country, and give our own people jobs.

      Dr. Zeek - 2010-11-15 13:53

      The Chinese workers were arrested for wanting to work hard and earn some money, thereby also contributing to SA's tax coffers. A Cosatu spokesperson stated that hard work was anti-south african and a threat to the national democratic revolution. Cosatu is to approach its alliance partners to ensure that any form of work for remuneration is banned in SA, so we can all live in a socialist workers' utopia. Viva lazy workers, viva!

  • Hartmut - 2010-11-14 18:03

    Maybe we should find out what cellphone providers employ most South Africans. I wouldn't mind to switch. They are alltogether the biggest crooks here, next to the banks and insurance companies.

  • AllHoliday - 2010-11-14 18:54

    Lets start an anti Cell-C campaign. I am definitely switching. Why employ chinese workers, if our own country men are unemployed. Money talks, so lets teach these people, if they want our money, they must emply locally!! It is time that we as a nation let our money and votes talk.

  • jannie - 2010-11-14 20:05

    @AllHoliday - "Why employ chinese workers.." Take your phone out of your pocket, and see where it was made. Not SA, hey? So stop moaning. If you want to boikot anything not made by South Africans, then go live in a cave.

      Michelle - 2010-11-14 23:07

      @ Jannie. if there was ever a like button, Id def click on it. well said comment! almost everything made is from China. Personally, Ive never liked CellC. I have no choice but to use Vodacom.

      Trêvhir - 2010-11-15 08:08

      Attention propaganda from government dept if you ask me. A full scale operation to take out 16 Chinks ? There is 16 Zims crossing the border every hour illegally. I bet somebody of ZTE crapped on a lazy somebody "important" at home affairs for being what they do best bcause tomorrow will still be there!!! With some high up comrades who gave him this job, instigated the revenge. I'ts mos common knowledge, in Africa everything is coerced in either threats or bribes!! The threat has now happened, the bribe should follow any moment!

      Dr. Zeek - 2010-11-15 13:55

      A "Proudly South African" cave?

  • fourie.theuns - 2010-11-14 20:06

    Maybe ZTE can also mention in the promised statement how many South African citizens are employed? And what the ratio is?

  • Homer - 2010-11-15 09:03

    Cell C should try and sort out their current network before embarking on trying to build a 4G network. One can't even make a proper voice call without the call being dropped every 45 seconds. their current network is crap. Worst service provider ever, thats why their contracts are so cheap.

  • whistleblow - 2010-11-15 14:53

    Utilising of cheap chinese resources is a business practise that MTN not only engages,in but actively promotes. MTN constantly uses chinese resource, equipment and software pricing as there benchmark. This allows them to threaten, bully and intimidate both there local and international suppliers into significantly lowering there prices, and in a number of instances even being forced into giving away resource and product free of charge. As long as MTN are meeting there cost cutting objectives they do not care whether the chinese resources have valid work permits, or what living conditions they are subjected to. Just walk around MTN offices and you will see how many chinese people work there. All of this goes on while the Senior management of MTN are yearly being paid millions in bonuses and share options when they achieve these very same cost cutting targets, and at whose expense (Their suppliers !!) (How hypocritical can one be?) Ask any MTN employee whether they would be prepared to work for the same remuneration they expect there suppliers to pay there resources and I guarantee you the answer would be NO. Why should MTN invest in local resource when they are in a position to force there suppliers to give them everything they require free of charge.None of these accrued cost savings (in the hundreds of millions) are passed on to there customers who continue to pay(by international standards) exorbitant cell rates. Investigate and stop this. What about Corporate Governance?

  • Deon - 2010-11-16 20:22

    If people out there only knew how these guys came in an messed up the industry with their cheap labor. I work in the telecommunication industry, a sub contractor, that use to do work for cell c, after these guys rolled in, we were practically forced to work for them at almost 1/4 of the normal rates, otherwise they'll get their own guys to do the job. How did that work out for you ZTE?

  • Loxion - 2011-08-16 13:58

    if local guys have the right knowledge and skills maybe then Chinese companies dont have to hire their own skilled people

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