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Stop blaming foreign nationals for South Africa’s unemployment crisis, says Amnesty International

EFF Leader Julius Malema during an inspection at a restaurant in Gauteng. File Photo Sizwe Ndingane/EFF

EFF Leader Julius Malema during an inspection at a restaurant in Gauteng. File Photo Sizwe Ndingane/EFF

Published Jan 20, 2022

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Pretoria - High-ranking public officials and political leaders in South Africa must stop blaming the country’s high unemployment problem and poor economic status on foreign nationals, refugees and asylum seekers as this can re-ignite xenophobia, Amnesty International South Africa has warned.

“It is easy to blame foreign nationals, refugees and asylum seekers for the country’s high unemployment problems, but the fact of the matter is that an economy like South Africa cannot rely on local skills alone to grow and create jobs,” said Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa.

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“Evidence shows that some of the biggest and industrialised economies around the world have grown because they have absorbed the foreign workforce and skills.”

Mohamed said blaming foreign nationals for South Africa’s unemployment problem will only fan the xenophobic flames against this vulnerable group in the country, who are “always used as scapegoats for various problems”.

“High-ranking public officials and politicians must resist the urge to blame foreign nationals for the high unemployment problem facing the country,” she said.

“High-ranking public officials and political leaders must caution against re-igniting xenophobia and must rather seek to unite people instead of dividing them. The words and actions of leaders matter.”

Amnesty International South Africa’s remarks come as outspoken leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters conducted visits to restaurants in Gauteng to check the employment ratio between South African citizens and foreign nationals.

Following his tour, Malema told reporters that the problem at hand was not the foreign nationals but the employers who prioritise foreign workers because they could exploit them.

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As the debate on immigration in South Africa took centre stage, the Department of Employment and Labour’s inspection and enforcement services, accompanied by the Department of Home Affairs and the SAPS in the Western Cape, announced week-long mega blitz inspections targeting the hospitality sector, including hotels, bed and breakfast facilities, and restaurants.

The Department of Employment and Labour said its “mega blitz” inspections would commence from January 24 to 28 in the Metropole, Cape Winelands and Overberg regions.

The inspectorate will be checking compliance with the National Minimum Wage Act (NMWA), Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA) and Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

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The Department of Employment and Labour said not only would inspectors be testing compliance and addressing non-compliance, but it would also serve to advise, educate and provide technical information and support to both workers and employers about the services offered by the inspectorate.

The mega blitz inspections will be led by the inspector general Aggy Moiloa, chief inspector Tibor Szana and the Western Cape provincial chief inspector David Esau.

“The Department of Home Affairs and the South African Police Services (SAPS) will also form part of the blitz inspections to ensure that all institutions like hotels, bed and breakfast facilities, restaurants and backpackers are fully inspected,” the department said in a statement.

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