With President Cyril Ramaphosa coming under fire from an investor, during an official visit to Nigeria, over unsubstantiated attacks on Nigerians working in South Africa, Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba yesterday stepped up the pressure on government to rid the country of undocumented foreign nationals.
Ramaphosa was this week criticised during an intra-Africa trade discussion at the Africa Export-Import Bank in Abuja over allegations that his government was not doing enough to protect Nigerians working in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Mashaba has requested an urgent meeting with the labour and home affairs ministers to discuss businesses in Johannesburg he claimed employed undocumented immigrants.
Due to some struggling African economies, South Africa has become a popular destination for economic migrants, most of whom come from Zimbabwe.
Mashaba said concerns over some South African companies employing undocumented foreign nationals were “once again raised during a visit to the Slovo Park community earlier this week”.
He continued: “Our residents must know that we take their concerns seriously and that we are actively addressing them.
“Ultimately, the casualties of national government’s inaction will be our poorest residents and, indeed, law-abiding foreign nationals.”
“During my visit to the community, residents complained of how neighbouring factories were employing undocumented immigrants in contravention of the law.
“By employing undocumented immigrants, these business owners are flouting immigration and labour laws and acting against the interests of over 900 000 residents in Johannesburg who are unemployed.
“These businesses also exploit undocumented immigrants, unable to exercise labour rights of their own.”
This situation, said Mashaba, stemmed from “the failures of national government to guard our borders and address the crisis of illegal immigration in our country”.
Johannesburg remained “at the epicentre of the situation”.
He added: “Government intervention is also crucial to preventing the exploitation of undocumented immigrants who, by virtue of their status, can sometimes be forced to work under unsafe conditions. I trust that the departments of labour and home affairs understand that we, as government, cannot hide our heads in the sand.”
He said section 38 of the Immigration Act prohibited companies from employing illegal foreigners.