We need to overhaul the Department of Labour to root out corruption

Director General of the department of labour Thobile Lamati. Photo: ANA/Stringer

Director General of the department of labour Thobile Lamati. Photo: ANA/Stringer

Published Jan 22, 2023


As the lucky few who still have jobs in South Africa return to work in 2023, we have been exposed to a host of new shenanigans by the Department of Employment and Labour.

First, the public was made aware of a madcap investment scheme. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had made a decision to invest, a decision endorsed by the director-general of the Department of Employment and Labour, into a company that had no history no assets and no ostensible business plan.

The UIF was going to use the public’s money which was invested in the Public Investment Corporation to the tune of hundreds of millions of rand. It was stated by the UIF Commissioner they were going to invest the money into this hollow company so they could create thousands of jobs.

When questions were raised as to what the business plan was, they refused to answer. This was not money owned by the department but money collected from employees to ensure their UIF would be paid when needed.

You might recall about three years ago, UIF, through the PIC, had invested money in another company which showed no result and all the money disappeared. This issue has still not been properly tackled by the department.

Only after a public outcry did the Minister of Employment and Labour step in and put a stop to this folly. Is it not time for a complete overhaul of the Department of Employment and Labour and a removal of the minister?

President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged that the government does not create jobs, it should only be creating a regulatory environment enabling the private sector to create jobs. This should be a simple task.

All the department needs to do is to have a look at all the regulations and remove those that are a retardant to job creation.

Second, during the festive period, the UIF commissioner went to one of the labour centres as part of his oversight duties. When the commissioner arrived at the Labour Centre, a security guard, not recognising the commissioner, stopped the commissioner and asked for money as a bribe to allow him in.

At last, the reality of the public’s hassles has been brought directly to the doorstep of the UIF commissioner. The UIF commissioner was rightly disgusted and promised to do something about that particular security guard.

I would like to share with the UIF commissioner it not just this security guard – this corrupt behaviour is rife throughout the labour centres.

Another incident arose by following up on a parliamentary question: it became clear the Post Office had spent more than a hundred million rand on entertainment, travel and food over the past four years and in particular during the Covid-19 lockdown.

From a labour point of view, it would be of interest to the UIF Commissioner that the Post Office had not paid over the UIF which was deducted from the staff. The deductions for UIF and the Compensation Fund were probably spent on entertainment.

Is it not incumbent upon the UIF commissioner to take immediate action against the Post Office management and ensure fraud charges are brought as soon as possible?

We have finally had a statement from the government that Eskom and many other parastatals are reporting a lack of skilled workers. You might recall thousands of skilled staff members in many of the state-owned enterprises were retrenched and removed to make way for cadre deployment. The retrenchment exercise cost the government millions of rands.

The collapse of the generating capacity is partially because of this whole sour retrenchment which took place a few years back. The removal of these skills has been one of the reasons for the collapse of the entire state structure.

Even if Eskom were able to replace their engineers, the new engineers would have no one to mentor and train them for their new positions.

The collapse of the generating capacity is partially because of this whole sour retrenchment which took place a few years back. When many of these retired and retrenched engineers offered to come back and help, the parastatal was not interested.

Because of the rampant load shedding, many businesses have not only suffered but closed down. This mass closure has resulted in further retrenchments across the board.

It was reported over the holiday season that many branches of KFC had to shut their doors. Thousands of staff members in similar situations are now standing in the unemployment queue.

* Michael Bagraim.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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