‘No jobs for SA locals’

2019-04-15 09:38
Congolese national Moses Kilozo who advocates for the rights of refugees and foreign nationals.Photo.Nompilo Kunene

Congolese national Moses Kilozo who advocates for the rights of refugees and foreign nationals.Photo.Nompilo Kunene

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Emotions are running high as residents raise concerns about local industries hiring more foreign nationals than locals.

Moses Thusi, a local man speaking on behalf of frustrated residents from ward 38 and ward 34 — which includes Thembalihle, Tamboville, Glenwood, Eastwood, Cinderella Park, Panorama and Madiba — said they needed the government to urgently intervene and ensure that these industries were adhering to hiring equity laws.

“There are no job opportunities at companies, mostly factories, close to us. We have noticed that employers are hiring more foreigners from neighbouring countries compared to us and our children have resorted to crime because there are no jobs available.

“These companies are no longer complying. Even security guards at the gates tell us that we are wasting our time by coming there every morning seeking jobs because they only hire foreigners,” said Thusi.

Another local man, who asked not to be named in fear of victimisation, accused the company that he works for of hiring undocumented foreign nationals. “The company has about 200 employees, but only 15 are South Africans and the rest are foreigners.

“Only about three of those foreigners are documented. The undocumented foreigners who work here live on the company’s premises with their children,” said the man.

Above this, several locals had identified the area outside the same factory’s premises as a “drop-off and pick-up zone for undocumented Malawian nationals”.

They alleged there was a truck, which The Witness has seen parked outside the company’s gate, that drops off undocumented foreign nationals from Malawi and loads goods purchased in SA to be transported back to Malawi.

The manager at the company rubbished allegations that their premises was a drop-off and pick-up zone.

He said anyone was open to use the dead-end road leading into the entrance of their company.

“We confirm that this is a public road used by all types of companies to repair trucks, park trucks overnight etc. We confirm that a vehicle was seen over the last three days parked in the circle with a Malawian registration number belonging to a [man] who has no association with our company.”

On the allegations about the hiring of foreign nationals, the manager said: “We have South African workers working here who also don’t have documents. It’s not my job as an employee to identify everyone.

“If a guy comes and tells me that they are South African, and they have the skills I need I’ll employ them. It’s the job of Home Affairs to find illegal foreigners. It’s not my job to find out if they’re South African or not. Some come with refugee status, what do you do then?”

He admitted that there were some employees who were allowed to spend the night at the staff quarters after working late shifts for safety reasons.

Kevin Chasweka, the truck driver accused of transporting undocumented foreigners, said he was disappointed by how South Africans demonised foreigners. “How is that even possible? When travelling from Malawi to South Africa I have to pass three borders, the South African, Swaziland and Mozambican borders, and how can I achieve this with undocumented people in my truck? It’s a lie,” he said.

Chasweka said he works as a courier driver transporting goods from and to Malawi. He said he has since received a call from the management of an industry, where he parks his truck, instructing him not to come close to their premises again following these allegations.

“You people are killing us because you were fortunate enough to be born in South Africa. We don’t have all these things in Malawi.

“Things are really bad back home and we are suffering. There are no jobs and no life, that’s why we come to South Africa. God has really blessed you here, but you are killing us for trying to also make a living for ourselves.

“We come here with passports. Do you know how hard it is to get a passport in Malawi?” said Chasweka.

The Department of Labour did not respond to questions sent to them by Weekend Witness on Wednesday.

Congolese national Moses Kilozo, who advocates for the rights of refugees and foreign nationals, said accusing foreign nationals of stealing jobs was a worldwide problem but it was worse in South Africa as people resorted to xenophobic attacks, killing innocent asylum seekers.

Touching on the recent incidents where trucks driven by foreign nationals were torched near Mooi River and Townhill, Kilozo said in Zimbabwe they also burnt trucks driven by South Africans.

“This is going to cause tensions between countries. Cool down and come to the negotiation table as this will affect South Africans working all over Africa,” warned Kilozo.

Congolese national Moses Kilozo who advocates for

Congolese national Moses Kilozo who advocates for the rights of refugees and foreign nationals.

He said there are always migrants coming to South Africa and living in bad conditions and willing to take whatever jobs are given to them because they are desperate.

Foreigners were being paid peanuts compared to their South African colleagues and take the money just to put food on the table and to have a roof over their heads, he said. “We are trying our best to spread the message to communities that there are other ways of resolving such conflicts and that violent xenophobic attacks are not necessary; don’t take the law into your own hands.

“South Africa has a good history of reconciliation and the Constitution states clearly that everybody living in South Africa has the right to life.”

Kilozo said there were different types of foreigners in South Africa — migrants, who come to South Africa seeking jobs and a better life than the life back home, and refugees, like Kilozo, who are seeking asylum and refuge because things are not good back home.

He said some foreigners have work permits allowing them to work in the country and have a role to play in the societies they live in, like paying tax. “We understand that it’s not nice seeing a foreigner wake up and going to work every day while you can’t put food on the table. It creates anger but there is never a need for violence.

“The government should regularly inspect companies to see how many foreigners are working there and that they adhere to whatever hiring equity laws in place. I’d assume that companies prefer hiring foreigners because it is easy to exploit and overwork them,” he said.

Kilozo recalled when he first came to SA after completing his mechanical engineering qualification back home.

“I worked as a mechanic in Durban and my boss would bring me food in the morning and at lunch and I used to think that this is a good boss. At month-end when I was supposed to get paid, he came with stories telling me that I eat too much and gave me a bill. He paid me peanuts until I couldn’t take it anymore and left,” he said.

Kilozo said such incidents were what caused many foreigners to avoid looking for employment because they are being exploited, so they prefer starting their own businesses and selling goods at the side of the streets.

This prompted Kilozo to be a voice for the voiceless foreign nationals by advocating for their rights and raising awareness by educating locals.

“Foreigners are hard workers by nature. That’s just the honest truth. If locals don’t fulfil their duties at work obviously the employers will look for someone who will be able to fulfil their duties and foreigners are always keen to do this.

“The government in most African counties doesn’t give hand-outs like here and people need to work for everything they have. That’s why foreigners have been programmed to be hard workers. South Africans should also learn to respect their jobs in order to keep them.”

Kilozo said they were grateful for the papers they got from Home Affairs to allow them to work here.

He explained that one can come to SA as an asylum seeker and go to Home Affairs to get their papers. Once you qualify you are given refugee status.

“After spending five years in South Africa you have the right to apply for the green ID book and have permanent residency but it’s such a pity that South Africans don’t understand that and will kill you even if you have all your papers, including a South African ID.”

He urged foreigners who have businesses within communities to also play ball.

“They should contribute in society through sport, theatre and music initiatives in the community as locals tend to think they are stealing their wealth and taking it back to their home countries as they fail to give back to the community,” he said.

SA has a history of xenophobic attacks

South Africa has had numerous incidences of xenophobic attacks which have seen foreign nationals killed after being accused of taking jobs belonging to locals and contesting for scarce resources. Xenophobia is defined by the South African Human Rights Commission as “the deep dislike of non-nationals by nationals of a recipient state”.

Congolese national Moses Kilozo who advocates for

Here are some of the xenophobic incidents reported in the media:

• In May 2008, xenophobic violence erupted in Alexandra, Johannesburg, and triggered xenophobic violence in other townships. After two weeks, the violence spread to urban areas across the country, mainly Durban and Cape Town.

The violence consisted of both verbal and physical attacks. As a result, many houses were burnt, at least 342 shops were looted and 213 were burnt down.

Hundreds of people were injured, thousands chased away and the death toll after the attacks stood at 56.

• From November 14 to 17, 2009, 3 000 Zimbabweans living in the rural community of De Doorns, an informal settlement near the Breede Valley Municipality in the Western Cape, were displaced due to xenophobic violence.

• On February 27, 2013, eight South African police officers tied Mozambican man Mido Macia (27) to the back of a police van and dragged him down the road. He subsequently died in a police cell from head injuries.

The incident happened in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.

• On May 26, 2013, two Zimbabwean men were killed by a mob in xenophobic violence in Diepsloot.

• In January 2015, a Somali shop owner was shot and killed along with a 14-year-old boy, Siphiwe Mahori, during an alleged robbery in Soweto. Siphiwe was shot in the neck and died within 15 minutes.

• On March 5, 2015, xenophobic attacks occurred in Limpopo. Foreigners on the outskirts of Polokwane left their shops after protesting villagers threatened to burn them alive and then looted their shops.

On March 21, 2015, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said that foreigners should go back to their home countries because they are changing the nature of SA society with their goods, and enjoying wealth that should be for local people.

This horrified foreigners who had been dealing with a spate of xenophobic attacks around the country. Zwelithini made the comments at a moral regeneration event in Pongola.

Recently, locals took to burning trucks driven by foreign truck drivers and attacking the drivers as they accused them of stealing their jobs.

When employing a foreigner

An article published on the South African Labour Guide website highlights what employers need to know about employing foreigners in South Africa.

The employment of foreigners is regulated by the Immigration Act 13 of 2002. This act provides for the admission of foreigners to, their residence in and departure from South Africa, and includes their ability to work here.

The act is supplemented by the Immigration Regulations which saw significant changes in May 2014, specifically in relation to work visas. The act 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.

The article further states that in terms of section 38(2) of the Immigration Act, a duty is placed on an employer to make an effort to ensure that no illegal foreigner is employed by it and to ascertain the status or citizenship of the person it employs. The act says that anyone who knowingly employs an illegal foreigner shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  xenophobia
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