Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba File picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Media

Cape Town - The Department of Home Affairs has promised a crackdown on businesses not complying with legislation that at least 60% of its staff complement comprise South African citizens.

Widespread noncompliance appeared to be prevalent in the hospitality, construction, agriculture and mining sectors, Minister Malusi Gigaba said, adding that the department’s intervention comes amid “grave concerns” from citizens, communities and government departments.

Last week Gigaba met role players in the hospitality industry, including hotel and restaurant owners and managers, to address “the high rates of immigrant employment in the country”.

“It was an open and frank meeting from which I expect measurable benefits for the country and citizens,” Gigaba said.

“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 the impact on communities, as well as on balancing international migration with security needs of the state.”

Gigaba said department officials would be conducting surprise inspections.

Businesses found to be on the wrong side of the law would be fined heavily and have their licences reviewed, while managers and owners could be jailed for up to two years if legal action was taken by the department.

“The crux of the matter, as observed, is that many businesses do not hire South African workers, preferring migrants,” Gigaba said.

Such employment practices were to blame for some of the incidents of attacks on foreign nationals.

“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.”

Gigaba said the meeting with the hospitality industry representatives was fruitful.

“They were honest to concede that the problems were concerns that had been raised with them before, especially in hospitality, construction and mining. Among other things, they agreed to raise awareness on the dangers and consequences of employing undocumented people, including the risk on their part of jeopardising their licences.

“The sector welcomed the initiative we took and agreed to do all in their power to ensure its objectives are met,” Gigaba said.

Provincial Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said he was aware of the department’s intervention.

“Cape Town and the Western Cape is positioning itself as a global region which welcomes foreign businesses and employees. This talent contributes to our economy."

“As with all businesses, local and foreign, the laws of the country should be adhered to,” Winde said.

Gigaba said his department would next engage the construction and agriculture sectors.

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