A recent article by News24 reported on the arrest of two farmers with 39 undocumented Mozambican nationals on their premises. Both farmers are currently being held in custody on 18 charges, including human trafficking, and have again been denied bail at their hearing earlier this week. The decision is currently under appeal.
One version is that the undocumented workers allegedly turned against the farmers during inspection claiming that they were working in the country against their free will.
Xpatweb hosted a Global Mobility Conference on 30th June and were honoured to host Mr. Ben Makhalemele the Deputy Director of Corporate Accounts at the Department of Home Affairs, as the Keynote Address. Whilst he touched on various pressing issues, one of the topics that stood out was the issue surrounding companies ensuring that they are compliant with the Immigration Act and its Regulations.
He highlighted that with recent developments and a push from Government to oust all illegal immigrants from South Africa, Department of Labour, along with Home Affairs have been conducting increasing inspections on companies to ensure Immigration compliance. He explained that it was the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their employees were in possession of legally obtained work visas. He confirmed that the Department is taking a “no-mercy” stance and cautioned all employers, that should they be found to have foreign workers without the necessary work visa, the company will be fined and both the owner/CEO of the company as well as the Head of HR, may face criminal charges and imprisonment.
There were questions hereon from HR executives at the conference, as employers have to rely on employees to provide the correct paperwork, as they themselves were not “experts” in immigration matters. Mr. Makhalemele noted that as a company and HR who hire foreign labour, you are expected to know what is required by the Government with regards to legally compliant visas and that “ignorance” of the law is not an excuse. He specifically referred section 49(3) of the Immigration Act and which criminalises the employment of illegal foreigners and comes with arrest for the HR executive and imprisonment of up to 5 years.
Business should take note that, that any person found on your premises, whether formally employed by you or working as a contractor, is deemed to be your responsibility.
Mr. Makhalemele implored the companies to seek out assistance with this matter, should they not have the relevant knowledge or experience to ensure that the company is compliant.
When Xpatweb does a compliance audit for employers, there is a specific set of documentation which can be independently verified as valid and compliant. This not only protects the employer against prosecution, but also allows proactive steps to be taken in cases of non-compliance.
Written by Marisa Jacobs, Managing Director of Xpatweb