The main purpose of this virtual meeting was for the Committee to be briefed on allegations that corporate permits for the employment of foreign nationals working for contractors at a mine in the North West Province which had been issued without the correct protocols being followed. The other item on the agenda was a briefing on the impact of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on the work of the Committee.
A representative of the greater Rustenburg, who brought the allegation to the Committee, said the law did not allow a company which was taking over the employees of another company in terms of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 to get corporate permits by default, without following due process. There were more than 50 mining companies willing to testify before the Committee or in legal proceedings, should the issued corporate permits not be withdrawn. The waiver by the Minister of Home Affairs had been illegal, and would not pass constitutional muster.
He took issue with the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA’s) argument that a Presidential pronouncement had been followed, as it was never published in the Government Gazette. It was not sufficient for the Minister to state that he was streamlining the process, which essentially made it easier for these companies to break the law. The Greater Bafokeng Business Forum had submitted its complaint that the ten directors appointed to the Boleng and Bokamoso companies were not from the direct mining area of Charora. Local entrepreneurs were not being empowered through the process that the DHA had followed, and the mines in the area had not been consulted.
The Department of Home Affairs responded that it had received correspondence in January from the Committee regarding the allegations of fraudulent corporate visas being issued to the implicated companies. Subsequently, the Counter-Corruption Unit of the DHA had instituted an internal investigation, with an inter-departmental task team comprised of the Directors-General from the DHA and the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL), in addition to a team of technical experts and legal advisors. No evidence of corruption had been found in the preliminary findings of the DHA’s Counter-Corruption Unit. The investigation was still ongoing, and was at an advanced stage. The report of the investigation would be submitted to the DHA’s Director-General as a matter of urgency once the investigation was finalised.
Members of the Committee expressed reservations over the lack of documentation to substantiate the DHA’s response to the allegations. They asserted that there were clear indications from its presentation that crucial information was being left out and not brought to their attention. They also took issue with the fact that the Minister had failed to implement a decision taken at the previous meeting that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations must be withdrawn. They recommended an independent investigation, so that the DHA was not investigating itself.
The four key issues in the SONA which impacted on the Committee’s work:
- The defeat of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Accelerated economic recovery -- economic reforms, job creation, economic growth;
- Combating corruption; and
- Strengthening government.
He said the DHA had a significant role in South Africa’s economic recovery plan and reducing unemployment, by efficiently managing identity information and international migration. Efficient management of identity information played a significant role in allowing the stable and secure flows of skills, capital and goods. This would attract investments, support industrialisation, assist planning, encourage infrastructure building and grow trade within Africa.
A Member commented that there was a lot of work to be done by the Committee in the year ahead, and the focus needed to be on corruption, as well as on the failures of the South African immigration system that was on the verge of collapse.
The Acting Chairperson convened the virtual meeting and welcomed Members and the delegations from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL). The delegation from the DHA consisted of Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Njabulo Nzuza, Deputy Minister, Mr Tommy Makhode, Director-General, and Mr Jackson McKay, DDG: Immigration Services. Mr Thobile Lamati (Director-General) represented the DEL.
He welcomed Mr Thapelo Elias Tshephe, the entrepreneur and businessperson who had made the allegations of procedures that were not followed regarding the issue of corporate permits to foreign nationals who worked for two contractors at a mine in the North West.
The main purpose of this virtual meeting was for the Committee to be briefed by the DHA and the DEL on the allegations related to the corporate permits issued to foreign nationals working for contractors at a mine in the North West province without adequate protocols followed.
Allegations over issuance of corporate permits
The Acting Chairperson said Mr Tshephe had made the allegations of procedures that were not followed regarding the corporate permits issued to foreign nationals who worked for two contractors at a mine in the North West. The Committee had previously taken a decision that the issued permits must be withdrawn, and that the DHA must open immediate investigations.
Mr Tshephe said he had presented his objection as an independent member of the community of the greater Rustenburg area, and not as a former owner and director of Reagetswe Mining Services. He would like to correct some ‘lies’ that had been circulating on these issues, which were causing differences among the stakeholders involved. Reagetswe Mining Services had been formed in 2005, and by 2016 it was operating in three different provinces. Reagetswe Mining Services had submitted proof of its valid permits to the Committee that it had obtained in 2019 and would expire in October 2022. No permits were obtained in 2017 or 2018. Reagetswe Mining Services had been operating for more than 16 years.
He said that when the Guptas were “on the run” and did not have bank accounts, Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine tried to get permits from all contractors -- from white-owned companies to other Bafokeng companies. Reagetswe Mining Services was their last resort. Luckily, Reagetswe Mining Services had permits to take over employees after acquiring those permits as far back as 2015, when they started working in Limpopo’s mines. It was therefore not true to say that Reagetswe Mining Services was helped by the mine to acquire permits, and these ‘lies’ did not justify why the companies, Boleng and Bokamoso, had not followed the due processes like other mining companies. Boleng and Bokamoso were newly formed companies that lacked experience or knowledge, and had never tested if there were local people with the same skills in Bafokeng or Rustenburg. In addition, Reagetswe Mining Services had a three-month contract from December to March with the mine, and new permits were issued to all foreign employees. These employees had already left South Africa by 20 December 2020, and thus to say that these permits were issued on Christmas Day because these workers wanted to go home, was false and done in bad faith.
Mr Tshephe said that the law did not allow a company which was taking over the employees of another company in terms of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 to get corporate permits by default, without following due process. There were more than 50 mining companies willing to testify before the Committee or in legal proceedings, should the issued corporate permits not be withdrawn. The waiver by the Minister of the DHA had been illegal, and would not pass constitutional muster. He took issue with the DHA’s argument that the Presidential pronouncement had been followed, as it was never published in the Government Gazette. It was not sufficient for the Minister to state that he was streamlining the process, which essentially made it easier for these companies to break the law.
The Greater Bafokeng Business Forum had submitted its complaint that the ten directors appointed to the Boleng and Bokamoso companies were not from the direct mining area of Charora. Local entrepreneurs were not being empowered through the process that the DHA had followed, and the mines in the area were not consulted. Reagetswe Mining Services were essentially being forced out of the mining area of Charora. The chairperson of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) had confirmed that they had contacted the Minister in the struggle to obtain permits, and was directed to an official in Pretoria and to the Acting Director-General at that time. It was claimed that the Chairperson of this Committee had been contacted, but without a positive response. The chairperson of NUMSA had stated that there was nothing they could do to stop the process, because the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe, was “handling” the Minister of the DHA in this regard.
It was the view of Mr Tshephe and the Greater Bafokeng Business Forum that the Boleng and Bokamoso companies were just a front for wrongdoers. The directors of these companies did not know each other well and had no skills or experience in the mining sector.
There seemed to be an insistence on hiring foreign mineworkers in preference to local mineworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine had had enough time to ensure that local people could be hired and trained instead of employing ten directors who were not skilled or experienced in the mining sector. It was baffling that Boleng and Bokamoso had written letters motivating the empowerment of local mineworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These companies had stated that the black directors from Reagetswe Mining Services were not from the same tribe, showing tribalism. The resources of South Africa were supposed to belong to all who live in the country.
These companies deliberately decided not to follow due processes because of the time it took to obtain corporate permits. It was not the job of Reagetswe Mining Services to investigate corruption and fraud, and the complainants in the matter were hoping the Minister of Home Affairs would do the right thing by setting aside or withdrawing the corporate permits issued to these companies. The real development and empowerment of the Bafokeng people would be realised only when local expertise and experience was used in the mining sector.
The Acting Chairperson said there were certain statements that Mr Tshephe had to put in writing, so that his allegations could be recorded, and evidence assessed to determine whether it was substantiated. Members could not spend time discussing matters that the Committee had not received details on.
Minister Motsoaledi said that until the DHA received a report on the corporate visas issued, he wanted to put it on record that he had never spoken to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy regarding this matter. The allegations of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy “handling” the Minister of the DHA must be investigated, and he had no idea what this allegation was referring to. The DHA accepted the decision by the Committee that the issuance of the corporate permits must be investigated, and the appropriate steps were being taken, on which the Committee would be briefed during this meeting. Unsubstantiated allegations were unacceptable.
DHA and DEL response to allegations
Introduction and overview of the DHA’s obligations:
Mr Tommy Makhode, Director-General (DG), DHA, said that the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 placed an obligation on the DHA that visas had to be issued as expeditiously as possible and on the basis of simplified procedures and objectives, predictable and reasonable requirements and criteria, and without consuming excessive administrative capacity. It also required that economic growth be promoted through the employment of needed foreign labour, that foreign investment was facilitated, the entry of exceptionally skilled or qualified people was enabled, skilled human resources were increased, academic exchanges within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was facilitated, and tourism was promoted. Lastly, the Immigration Act required that the South African economy may have access at all times to the full measure of needed labour and service contributions by foreigners.
South Africa was a signatory to the SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour signed in 2014 by the respective heads of state. The employment of mineworkers from the SADC region was also regulated by the bilateral agreements signed between South Africa and the labour-sending SADC countries. The protocol provides member states with strategic direction and guidelines for the harmonisation of employment labour, as well as social security, policies and legislation. Furthermore, the protocol promotes the development of labour as well as social protection. The SADC protocol was an agreement that binds South Africa, and the DHA could not just tamper with the protocol.
The Immigration Regulations prescribe that for any new corporate visa application, the corporate employer shall submit proof of the need to employ the requested number of foreigners. In 2014, the DHA promulgated these Regulations, which prescribed that corporate visas should be issued with a validity period of a maximum of three years, and this change in the legislation was publicly communicated through Immigration Directive no. 10 of 2014. The purpose of the Immigration Directive was to inform all relevant stakeholders that the DHA would longer be issuing any open-ended corporate visas because prior to 2014 corporate visas were issued open-ended, meaning that they did not expire.
Process for corporate visas
As part of its mandate, the DHA issued corporate visas to mining companies who employ foreign labour coming from the SADC. Section 21 of the Immigration Act stipulates that a corporate visa may be issued by the Director-General of the DHA to a corporate applicant, to employ foreigners who may conduct work for such corporate applicant in South Africa.
Section 21(2) further states that the Director-General of the DHA shall determine, in consultation with the DEL, the maximum number of foreigners to be employed in terms of a corporate visa by a corporate applicant. In some instances, employers may request a waiver of this provision for good cause.
The process to obtain a corporate visa was subject to the completion of an online form and the submission of the required supporting documentations. Where a prescribed document was not attached, the applicant must provide the reason for the deviation, in the form of an approved waiver. An application for a corporate visa must meet all the prescribed requirements. Any significant deviations from the defined procedures and instructions must be fully recorded and documented. The Immigration Act allows for two deviations from the defined processes. This includes that the Director-General of the DHA may withdraw or amend an issued corporate visa if there was good and reasonable cause for the changes, and that the Minister of the DHA may on good cause waive any prescribed requirement or form.
Corporate visas in the mining sector:
South Africa’s mining sector made an immense contribution to the economy, and in 2018 it contributed approximately R351bn to the gross domestic product GDP of the country. The number of foreign mineworkers in South Africa had been declining as a result of natural attrition, and mines were no longer recruiting foreign miners. In 2018, a total of 456 438 people were employed in the mining sector. The amount of foreign mineworkers employed in 2019 amounted to 45 482 workers. The Mining Council had requested the waiver of the DEL certificate for those employers who were no longer hiring new foreign employees, but were continuing with only the foreign mineworkers currently in their employ when applying for new corporate visas. There had been no legal requirement for the DHA to publish the waiver in the Government Gazette, according to legal advice obtained.
In order to allow a smooth transition from the old regime of open-ended corporate visas to the three-year corporate visas, holders of valid corporate visas had been encouraged to return any open-ended corporate visas to the DHA. The DHA would then issue a new corporate visa that was valid for between 12 and 36 months to allow the corporate employer sufficient time to make a formal application for the new three-year corporate visa. Reagetswe Mining Solutions was one of the companies that had returned their open-ended corporate visa from 2010 to the DHA, and was subsequently issued with a replacement three-year corporate visa to continue the employment of their current employees.
During the same period, Royal Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine had just served a notice of termination for its contract with Aforika Borwa Mining Services. Reagetswe Mining Services had stated their intention to bid for the Aforika Borwa contract, using their current valid corporate visa to absorb foreign workers from Aforika Borwa and save them from impending possible unemployment. Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act had paved a way for Reagetswe Mining Services to employ disengaged mine workers from Aforika Borwa, provided that all the correct procedures were followed. This process was completed successfully, and Reagetswe Mining Services took over the contract of Aforika Borwa as an ongoing concern.
Timeline of the current issue
Royal Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine had a service provider agreement with Westdawn Investments (Pty) Ltd, trading as JIC Mining Services, which was concluded in 2012. Westdawn Investments contracted another company, known as Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions, to carry out the mandates of Westdawn Investments. Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions had a staff compliment of 1 200, which constituted 800 foreign nationals on valid corporate worker authorisation certificates. The 800 foreign nationals performed mining services at Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine on behalf of Westdawn Investments.
The contractual agreement between Westdawn Investments and Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions was then later terminated, with the effective date being 31 December 2017. This termination of the contract had resulted in Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions intending to retrench the employees linked to this contract, as they had no other business at which to place the affected employees. The termination of the contract resulted in a legal dispute which was settled in the Labour Court on 7 December 2017. To protect the employees in terms of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, the court issued an order that the affected employees should be transferred from Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions to the new service provider, Reagetswe Mining Services. By virtue of the court order, Reagetswe Mining Services became the new employer and the beneficiary of a settlement agreement.
Reagetswe Mining Services had an existing corporate visa for their other mining services, which had been issued on 3 October 2016 for a period of three years, empowering it to employ 500 mine workers. Royal Bafokeng Mining Services had then approached the DHA with a request for authorisation to use Reagetswe Mining Services’ corporate visas to absorb the soon to be disengaged workers from Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions. The DHA had responded by saying that in order for Reagetswe Mining Services to absorb all the affected workers, they would have to apply for a new or additional corporate visa. The available time was not sufficient to complete the application process by 1 January 2018. Due to the time constraints and the fact that the taking over of the employees from Westdawn Investments and Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions was the outcome of a court order, the DHA did not compel Reagetswe Mining Services to start the processes at the DEL to obtain the necessary corporate visas. Reagetswe Mining Services’ existing corporate visa was amended in terms of the Immigration Act, which effectively authorised it to absorb the other employees.
Reagetswe Mining Services was claiming that the corporate visas issued to the two service providers were fraudulent. Mr Tshephe, amongst other stakeholders, was insisting that the two companies should have gone to the DEL first. It was also insisted that the corporate visas were issued too expeditiously.
Establishment of an inter-departmental task team
In January 2021, the DHA received correspondence from the Committee regarding the allegations of fraudulent corporate visas being issued to the implicated companies. Subsequently, the Counter-Corruption Unit of the DHA had instituted an internal investigation into the alleged instances of fraud. An inter-departmental task team was also set up to investigate the allegations and comprised of the Director-Generals from the DHA and the DEL, in addition to a team of technical experts and legal advisors.
The findings of the inter-departmental task team included that the corporate visa applications for the implicated companies met all the requirements, except for the labour certificates. However, attached to both applications were the Ministerial waiver (as a deviation from the required DEL certificate), which were official documents which waived the requirement for the DEL certificate. The submission of the waiver in lieu of the DEL certificate rendered the application to be complete, and that it met all the required supporting documents as per the checklist. At the time that the corporate visas were issued to the two companies involved, Reagetswe Mining Services had corporate visas that were valid until the end of July 2021. The DHA had identified all the work and business visas that had to be treated as a priority to support the National Economic Recovery Plan as laid out in the State of the Nation Address (SONA). These corporate visas were issued expeditiously. During December 2020, two applications were received for corporate visas, which were immediately processed when they were received, in line with the prioritisation of work and business visas.
The recommendations of the inter-departmental task team included that South Africa and the DHA was bound by the SADC protocol. It recommended that future complaints and allegations be processed by a standing task team comprising of officials from the DHA, the DEL, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC). This would enhance inter-departmental cooperation as provided for in the Immigration Act. All applications for corporate work visas would follow an agreed process by the standing task team, including the submission of requests to the DEL. Should there be a need for a waiver, the DHA would consult with the DEL, the DMRE and the DTIC.
The inter-departmental task team noted that the corporate visas were expiring only in July 2021, and these were for the same workers that had to be transferred to the new companies. In addition, it was noted that there were no new vacancies created, and it recommended that the current visas should not be withdrawn as they were still valid, and that the withdrawal would lead to litigation.
Response to allegations regarding corporate permits issued
Regarding the allegations that permits were issued on 25 and 26 December, the DHA said that the permits for the two companies implicated were not issued on Christmas or Boxing Day, which were public holidays, but were issued on 22 December 2020.
Regarding the allegations that the permits were issued fraudulently, the DHA responded that there was no evidence of corruption found in the preliminary findings of the DHA’s Counter-Corruption Unit. The investigation was still ongoing, and it was at an advanced stage. The report of the investigation would be submitted to the DHA’s Director General as a matter of urgency once the investigation was finalised. The implicated DHA officials were not on leave after 6 December 2020, and were not required to work on public holidays.
The DHA recommended that the Committee note the briefing on the process of issuing corporate permits at the Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine and the report from the inter-departmental task team. It was also recommended that Members note the SADC protocol applicable, and the communicated letter from Mr Roger Baxter, Chief Executive Officer of the Mineral Council of South Africa,.
Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) expressed concern that no-one from the DHA seemed to be taking responsibility for the allegations that were made with regard to the issuance of the corporate permits. Who had compiled the report from the DHA? It was disheartening to see the highly political nature of the DHA’s report regarding the allegations. The report from the DHA captured the fact that there were instances where corporate permits were being issued fraudulently. There was no problem with foreign nationals from Africa being employed within South Africa, especially giving the challenging economic conditions in African countries. However, fraudulent activities could not be tolerated within the DHA. He said that the Committee was undermined in the presentation by the DHA, with its references to the SADC protocol, by making the inference that the Committee did not know the law. The briefing by the DHA should have focused more on exactly how and when the corporate permits that were in issue had been granted by the DHA. The relevant documentation involved in the waivers by the Minister of the DHA should have been presented to the Committee. A deeper analysis and presentation of the circumstances of the issues in dispute should have been presented.
Ms M Modise (ANC) asked for clarity on the process of the percentage of foreign nationals that a company must employ, or get permits for their employment. What was the total number of employees within the two implicated companies, and how many foreign nationals did they employ? The DHA needed to provide more clarity on the exact process involved when a company took over employees with expired work visas.
She reminded Members that the Committee took a decision at its last meeting that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations had to be withdrawn. It was surprising that this had not been implemented as of yet. This meant that the DHA had disregarded the decision of the Committee. It was unfortunate that the investigations initiated by the DHA had still not been concluded and that only preliminary findings and reports were presented to the Committee. She suggested that the investigations be referred to an independent investigating agency, to avoid the DHA having to investigate its own actions.
Mr A Roos (DA) said that the mining sector had been booming in the past, with multiple multi-national arrangements in place. It seemed now as if the DEL was stating that there was no labour capacity within South Africa to fill the vacancies in the mining sector.
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) said that the DHA’s responses to the multiple allegations were not clear enough. It was problematic that the full details and progress of the internal investigations by the DHA had not been shared with Members. She agreed with Ms Modise that it was unacceptable that only preliminary findings and reports had been presented to the Committee.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) said that the presentation by Mr Tshephe raised multiple and vast allegations that were quite serious in nature. She reminded Members that the Committee had taken a decision at its last meeting that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations must be withdrawn. After that decision, the Minister of the DHA had advised the Committee that the corporate permits could not simply be withdrawn out of a fear of legal action. What necessary action could be taken against the Minister of the DHA for not implementing the decision of the Committee, and unilaterally deciding not to withdraw the corporate permits in issue? She said that the Minister of the DHA should perhaps be referred to the Rules and Ethics Committee. There were clear indications from the presentation of the DHA that crucial information was being left out and not brought to the attention of Members. More clarity was needed on the reasoning process of the Minister of the DHA in his decision to agree to waivers for the particular corporate permits in dispute. She requested that the DHA be given a timeframe to withdraw the corporate permits, in line with the Committee’s previous decision.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) agreed that the Minister of the DHA should be referred to the appropriate Committee for failing to implement the decision that the Committee had taken in its last meeting that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations must be withdrawn.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) agreed that there must be further independent investigations into the issue of why the Committee’s decision that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations must be withdrawn, was not implemented by the DHA. She thanked Mr Tshephe for coming forward with the allegations raised. The Committee had noted the criticism from the Zondo Commission of inquiry on Parliament’s failure to hold the Executive accountable. There were clearly a lot of problems within the DHA that needed to be scrutinised.
Responses from DHA and DEL
Mr Lamati responded that certain targets were set for the employment of foreign nationals in certain sectors. The DEL was in the progress of developing a national employment policy and a labour migration policy in response to the issues raised by Members. These policies would enhance the regulation of the employment of foreign nationals within South Africa. There were currently no limits on how many foreign nationals could be employed.
Mr McKay thanked Members for the detailed questions and concerns raised. He said the Minister of the DHA had raised the relevant legal opinions in the previous engagements with the Committee. The DHA had drawn a timeline in its presentation of the circumstances that had led to the allegations raised by Mr Tshephe. However, the DHA noted Members’ concerns, and expressed commitment to share the information, such as the required supporting documentation that was submitted with the applications for the corporate visas, in future engagements with the Committee.
Deputy Minister Nzuza, stated that the DHA remained committed to prioritising South Africans and to ensure that the local people were empowered in all sectors. Its commitment remains to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that all DHA officials acted within the ambit of the law. The DHA did not intend withholding information from the Committee regarding the allegations of corruption or wrongdoing.
Minister Motsoaledi said he had not refused or disregarded the decision of the Committee that the corporate permits issued in respect of the allegations must be withdrawn. There were laws and regulations that might impede the DHA’s progress in implementing the decision of the Committee. He expressed shock that there were no limits on how many foreign nationals could be employed, and said that the DHA was committed to ensuring that the necessary legislative changes were proposed and discussed.
Regarding the ministerial waivers, he said that when the companies applied for the corporate permits and relevant visas in writing, it was stated that the visas extend to only foreign nationals currently in employ, and that no new foreign nationals were being hired in the mining sector. The Counter-Corruption Unit of the DHA was investigating every allegation received regarding this matter.
Impact of SONA on work of the Committee
Mr Paulus Hlongwane, the Committee Researcher, said the SONA 2021 had identified four strategic themes:
-The defeat of the COVID-19 pandemic;
-Accelerated economic recovery -- economic reforms, job creation, economic growth;
-Combating corruption; and
To date, approximately 1.5 million South Africans had been infected with COVID-19, and about 49 000 people had lost their lives as a result. The vaccination-process was being rolled out, and it was a welcome approach that employees in the health sector would be prioritised in its first phase. In the second phase, people who worked in essential services would be prioritised, including frontline workers and DHA officials.
It was reported that South Africa’s unemployment rate had increased from 29.1% to 31.8% between the fourth quarter of the 2019/20 financial year and the third quarter of the 2020/21 financial year. This meant that unemployment had increased by 1.9% and that 1.7 million South Africans had lost their jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa’s economy grew only by 0.5% in 2019, and was expected to grow an additional 3% during 2021.
The DHA had a significant role in South Africa’s economic recovery plan and reducing unemployment, by efficiently managing identity information and international migration. Efficient management of identity information played a significant role in allowing stable and secure flows of skills, capital and goods. This would attract investment, support industrialisation, assist planning, encourage infrastructure building, and grow trade within Africa.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area (the ACFTA) that had come into effect on 1 January 2021, the DHA had to ensure that the visa waiver signed by government with various partner countries was implemented, as per signed agreements. These agreements supported South Africa’s commitment to attract investment and facilitate trade within Africa by incrementally relaxing travel regulations. The DHA should ensure that the new electronic visa-regime with Kenya, Nigeria, China, and India -- which was supposed to have been implemented in the 2020/21 financial year but was disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic -- was efficiently implemented to accelerate the flow of people and goods from these regional powerhouses. For Parliament, this meant staying abreast of the latest developments in this regard, as well as regular briefings by the DHA on the future agreements of this nature.
The SONA 2021 had re-emphasised the importance of the ACFTA for South Africa and the continent at large. The ACFTA was expected to accelerate the movements of goods and people throughout the continent. Through the ACFTA, South Africa’s businesses should be able to expand their trade into the rest of the African continent. If South Africa embraced the ACFTA, it would positively impact the increased volumes and the value of goods and services traded on the continent. South Africa should embrace these developments, as they would contribute to job creation and economic growth. The DHA’s role in this regard would be to ensure smooth cross border movements and efficient issuance of travel documents.
Job creation and reducing unemployment, especially amongst the youth, was placed at the centre of the national agenda for both the 2020 and 2021 SONAs. To create sustainable quality jobs and grow the economy, the SONA 2021 had again noted the lack of relevant skills required by the job market, particularly amongst the youth. As such, SONA 2021 announced that the DHA would soon publish a revised list of critical skills for public comment within one week, to ensure that the final version reflected the skills needed by the economy. It should be noted that the DHA had already published the critical skills list on 18 February 2021 for public comment. The closing date for public comments was 31 March 2021.
Corruption remained one of the main stumbling blocks to South Africa’s progress, as pointed out in both 2020 and 2021 SONAs. In one of its many attempts to fight corruption, the 2020 SONA had set up a government and civil society working group to develop a strategy on an anti-corruption plan and an implementation plan which was to be launched by the middle of last year. SONA 2021 had continued on the same theme, with the President announcing that government had already started implementing the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which laid the basis for a comprehensive and integrated society-wide response to corruption. In addition, government would soon make appointments for the Anti-Corruption Advisory Council that would report to Parliament. In this regard, the DHA should ensure that preventative mechanisms to combat corruption were put in place, and that those who were caught of the wrong side of the law should face consequences.
In conclusion, he said that within the context and the focus of SONA 2021, the contributions of the Committee was key to achieving the targets and commitments set for the year to come.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr Hlongwane for the presentation, and said that the Committee had an added responsibility of carrying forward the message of President Ramaphosa regarding the focus areas identified in the SONA 2021.
Mr Tshwaku emphasised the focus on combating corruption, and appreciated how it related to the issue of the corporate permits that had been discussed during this meeting.
Mr Roos thanked the thanked the Committee Researcher for the presentation made, and appreciated the concise and clear information that was conveyed to Members.
Ms Van der Merwe said there was a lot of work to be done by the Committee in the year ahead, and the focus needed to be on corruption, as well as on the failures of the South African immigration system that was on the verge of collapse. It was paramount that the Committee received the responses and documentation that it asked for, to ensure that the workload of Members could be discharged in this regard.
The Acting Chairperson agreed with Ms van der Merwe that it was necessary for the Committee to receive the responses and documentation that it asked for, to ensure that effective oversight was rendered.
Adoption of outstanding minutes
The Acting Chairperson stated that the adoption of the Committee’s outstanding minutes would stand over to the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Minerals Council South Africa Rod
- Letter to the Chairperson of the Committee from Mr Thapelo Elias Tshephe (complainant)
- Report on Corporate Visas for Mine Workers at Royal Bafokeng Platinum Boleng Mining Services and Phenyo Africa Mining Services
- DHA: SONA 2021
- SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour
- DHA: Corporate Visas that were issued to foreign nationals who work for two contractors at the Bafokeng Rustenburg Mine
- Research Unit: Analysis of SONA February 2021
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