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Media Briefing: As committed, publicly, last week, we met, this morning, with the leadership of the hospitality sector – industry associations, hotels and restaurant owners and managers.

Participants included:

  • Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa
  • Restaurant Association of South Africa, and
  • National Accommodation Association.

It was an open and frank meeting from which I expect measurable benefits for the country, and citizens. We talked seriously about current compliance issues, relating to laws of the country in respect of employment of immigrants vis-à-vis SA citizens.

The requirement to employ 60% citizens came out strongly, with all acknowledging its importance. There was consensus on dire consequences of failure to respond and impact on communities, as well as on balancing international migration with security needs of the state.

The main purpose of the meeting was therefore to look at civic issues affecting citizens, as well as our approach to management of international migration. It was important because in the past we really had not managed immigration effectively. Thus we had taken a proactive approach to migration, to ensure positive spin-offs for the country and its people.

The burning issue currently is the grave concern that had been raised with us by many citizens, labour stakeholders and affected government departments. The crux of the matter, as observed, is that many businesses, particularly in the construction and hospitality sectors, do not hire South African workers, preferring migrants.

It is a matter we cannot put aside, thus its prioritisation going-forward. And so we have resolved this year to pay serious attention to this matter, even to contain possible threats that may arise from mismanagement of the situation.

As you would know, South Arica has already seen unfortunate incidents of attacks on foreign nationals some of which flowing from employment practices, with a serious dent on the country’s reputation internationally.

I made it quite clear from the start of the meeting that we needed a very strong partnership with business, and that it was important to clarify issues and act accordingly even before we are pressurised by the public.

As we have said, this carries potential to fuel perceptions that businesses exploit migrants to lower wages and conditions, while locals suffer in a sea of poverty and want. This does much further to undermine South Africa’s economic and developmental goals that we have outlined, as a nation, collaboratively, and consultatively, in the National Development Plan.

Especially in the current global financial and economic situation, volatility and slow growth, rolling back the tight of inequality, unemployment and poverty is extremely important. Job-creation is prioritised in the National Development Plan, as a step towards eliminating poverty and inequality. Practical steps include an increase in both quality and quantity of employment; to roll-back the frontiers of rising unemployment, particularly for the young.

Representatives were honest to concede that the problems were concerns that have been raisedwith them before, especially in hospitality, construction and mining. Stakeholders stated that they had not done research to determine numbers of people hired in the country.

They believed this opens up a potential relationship with the department to improve on employment practices, and to educate others about these issues. Among other things, they agreed to raise awareness on the dangers and consequences of employing undocumented people, including the risk on their part to jeopardise their licences.

The stakeholders raised some of their views on reasons why certain sectors may not be employing citizens, ranging from wages to perceptions around work ethics.

The sector welcomed the initiative we took, and agreed to do all in their power to ensure its objectives are met. They viewed the partnership in a serious light, believing its success will help in diffusing tensions that may arise from failure to assure citizens that their interests are uppermost.

Consensus was reached to prioritise our citizens on employment and various economic opportunities.

The hospitality sector committed to play its role in this regard. But obviously, it should all translate into action.

The meeting therefore agreed on practical steps to take swiftly to deal with these issues.Agreement was reached with all stakeholders present, on the need to do the following:

  • Respond urgently and sensitively to the concerns raised by citizens regarding the sector
  • Improve employment practices, with citizens prioritised, and not prejudiced. For citizens these issues are fundamental as they relate to satisfying their human needs as they impact greatly on living standards.
  • Enforce, with support of the associations, rules and regulations
  • Stakeholder engagement for dissemination of information, legislation and regulations
  • Target businesses for inspections and impose penalties accordingly. Section 49 (3) of the Immigration Act, 2002 stipulates that anyone who knowingly employs an illegal foreigner or a foreigner in violation of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment as determined by the courts.

In sum, Government has a duty to ensure proper monitoring mechanisms are in place for South Africans to benefit the most from economic and employment growth, across all sectors.

We remain confident that business is committed to developing South Africa, and playing its part in developing our local skills base, employing workers and growing the economy in line with the National Development Plan Vision 2030.

It is quite clear that the route taken elsewhere in respect of immigration is not a route worth taken by SA.

It is our responsibility as government to respond to issues raised. If we are not responsive, we will be implicated in any of the tensions that worsen from a failure to act. It is important to hear the concerns of citizens and to respond to their needs. Lastly, we continue to urge all leaders to be mindful of what they say in public. Our next meeting will be with construction and agriculture which should be conducted with the same spirit of collaboration.

I thank you.


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