Small business development minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Picture: Zwelethemba Kostile/Parliament of RSA
Johannesburg - The government is developing legislation that will bar foreign nationals from operating in certain sectors of the economy, a key member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet revealed this week.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola told a fundraising gala dinner hosted by the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation on Thursday night that his small business development counterpart, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, was developing legislation in relation to foreign nationals doing business in South Africa.

“(The minister) is also developing legislation in relation to foreign nationals doing business in our country - which sectors of the economy can they play in and where and how? That is the kind of legislation she is busy with and we are hoping that soon it will be released for public engagement,” Lamola said.

He said the reality was that foreign nationals were needed in certain sectors of the economy for it to grow.

“The legislation will also have to cover and be realistic to such kind of dynamics because we are not going to wake up and have a massive deportation of Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Lesotho nationals,” Lamola said.

“We need to put in place legislation that will be able to set aside and strike a clear balance that will help us to still grow the economy for the benefit of everyone in South Africa, but still be able to say there are sectors that we need to regulate and be clearly stated that no foreign national can run this kind of a business”.

Lamola denied this was protectionism. “Because South Africa is the most industrialised economy on the continent, we are going to be the biggest beneficiaries of the Africa Free Trade Agreement. We don’t have the luxury of closing our borders altogether.”

Lamola also spoke of the challenges he had been battling since his appointment. “What we are grappling with is that those who have looted the state did not just loot money for the building of houses, at Eskom or anywhere. They have also looted the money that is supposed to prosecute them,” he said.

Lamola said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had a vacancy rate of 20% and hadn’t been recruiting for the past five years. 

“Everyone is now crying, asking why the NPA is not prosecuting people who have looted money (when) there is evidence all over. The skills have been hounded out of the NPA.”

Lamola said this was why the NPA had to rebuild itself and get the necessary skills, but promised that his department was helping it and providing the necessary support.

He said the sophisticated crimes committed by people who looted the state required skilled prosecutors and that director-general Vusi Madonsela was working very hard with the National Treasury so that the NPA could recruit people who could help with prosecuting sophisticated crimes.

“We also need the sophisticated hands of professionals to undo state capture. How are you going to prosecute Steinhoff without sophisticated professionals? How are you going to prosecute issues relating to Eskom? You’re talking about billions of rands that have been stolen in a very sophisticated way. You need the same measure of skill to prosecute sophisticated thieves,” said Lamola.

Politics Bureau