Johannesburg - A fierce debate this week erupted following suggestions that President Cyril Ramaphosa may, during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday evening, announce a policy that could possibly look at “excluding foreign nationals” from certain categories of work.
While Ramaphosa is yet to outline plans by his administration to bridge the ever-growing unemployment gap in the country, calls have been growing by some sectors of society for more South Africans to be employed while they acknowledge that government does make provision for the employment of foreign nationals with vital skill sets.
Delivering the provincial statement in the Mpophomeni Township in Howick last month, ANC KwaZulu-Natal Chairperson Sihle Zikalala laid down the gauntlet to the national government, urging the Ramaphosa administration to ensure that general and semi-skilled jobs were only reserved for South Africans.
“In this regard, we call, and we are emphatic, on the January 8 statement that general opportunities in terms of the general economic opportunities and general employment, must be reserved for South Africans. If you talk about petrol attendants and people working in restaurants and say those jobs shouldn’t be protected for South Africans, where do you expect people without skills to work?
“We are saying the government must reserve general employment for people of South Africa, also because South Africans get denied opportunities because it is easy for the private sector to employ foreign nationals because they will not demand the labour rights that are enjoyed by South Africans,” Zikalala said at the time.
Commenting on the exclusion of foreign nationals, ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba told IOL that they would be disappointed by such a move because Ramaphosa has been in government since 1994 and compromised the sovereignty of South Africa and "we hope and trust that he can support minister Motsoaledi in ensuring that we can reclaim our country and continue inviting foreign nationals to come to our country, but they must come legally and respect our laws when they are here."
Mashaba said, as ActionSA, they want to continue on a trajectory of South Africa. "This country was built on the back of migrants, and we want to continue attracting people of the world to here, and our constitution is very clear as to who qualifies to get the country's citizenship," he added.
On improving the unemployment in South Africa, he said: "We must remove ANC from power. There's no way you can improve the economy as long as you keep the ANC government in power because, in our view, a prosperous South Africa and ANC cannot co-exist in one space, so one has to die, and it can't be our country, it has to be the ANC."
"That is the starting point. You can't expect the ANC, who have been responsible for the destruction of our economy, to be the one who is responsible for repairing it," he maintained.
Earlier this month, EFF leader Julius Malema visited the Mall of Africa in Midrand to check the employment patterns in three restaurants.
After meeting with the management of all restaurants, Malema said "We want to make an emphasis, and that’s what we said to the owners of the restaurants, that no one should stop employing Zimbabweans here and say the EFF said it doesn’t want Zimbabweans."
Commenting on possible door shut down for foreigners, One South Africa’s National Spokesperson Mudzuli Rathivhane said the real issue is that ANC has government economic failures, so ”this is not about foreigners but a matter of failure to create jobs and increase economic growth and modernise the education system.”
“Putting poor and unemployed South Africans against foreign nationals is actually a cheap tool that is going to cause confusion. So creating an environment confusion is a dangerous tab to go against the country values that we try to create and rejuvenate the views of our continent,” she added.
In intervening on the unemployment issue, Rathivhane said they have six interventions, of which, on Friday, they have an event in Cape Town to launch their interventions to deal with the unemployment crisis as a country.
She mentioned the following as the six key interventions and maintained that they would fix the unemployment issues and deal with the battle between South Africans and foreign nationals.
1. The need to have affordable access to data because job seeking is an expensive exercise with so many job opportunities online.
2. Finances should be diverted a bit to enable direct cash injection into young South Africans called myShare.
3. Educational skills and the vocational training sector need to be fixed.
4. Employment service centres need to be built. There is a concept in Japan called Hello Work, and it reaches job seekers and companies in need of workers.
5. One year voluntary in in-services training. This is the introduction to bridging the gap between those leaving schools into the working world.
6. Job investment fund. It’s a fund from businesses and distributed into empowerment and it is done with surgery, infrastructure, land reform programmes etc.
Meanwhile, Advocate Bongani Majola of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said "Of course, this issue is in the spotlight. Whether it is constitutional and accords with the Bill of Rights will depend on what is done and how it is done.
“As I said on the phone, I am not in a position to speculate on it. If and when the government does prioritisation beyond what is the case now where non-citizens who want to come and work here need to have required scarce skills in the country, the Commission will check that against the Constitution. The issue of what should be done to reduce unemployment falls outside the scope of the SAHRC."