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Influx a reality

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Widespread unrest is usually the result of locals feeling unhappy about undocumented nationals.   Photo: Archive
Widespread unrest is usually the result of locals feeling unhappy about undocumented nationals. Photo: Archive

After the civil unrest in Nkqubela in Robertson – where Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals clashed – it has come to light that the influx of undocumented foreign nationals is a widespread problem.

In various reports from the Breede River, Witzenberg, Hex Valley and Langeberg, the phrase Sothos – as Lesotho nationals are referred to by locals – keep popping up. Some communities have even gone as far as blaming them for the rise in criminal activity.

One of the major contributing factors of the clashes in Robertson, according to locals, was the fact that farm owners apparently only employ undocumented foreign nationals. This same situation was pointed out to be a problem in the Witzenberg area.

“These farm owners go and fetch undocumented foreigners from outside of the Witzenberg. Then, when the season is done, they just leave the people in the towns. This directly influences the amount of shacks going up as well as the crime increasing,” said a Wolseley local, who chose to remain anonymous.

His sentiment echoed that of people living in Robertson as well as De Doorns.

According to Deputy Director-General Darryl Jacobs of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture there has been an influx of foreign nationals reported in rural towns across the Western Cape.

“However, not all related to the agricultural sector but in most cases reported to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.”

Jacobs added that there are processes to be followed concerning the appointment of foreign nationals.

“Farmers and farming businesses are aware of and encouraged to follow due processes via the Departments of Employment and Labour and Home Affairs concerning the appointment of foreign nationals in employment.”

He adds the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Employment and Labour are working closely in areas where the agricultural sector is implicated.

“Close working relations exist with the Department of Employment and Labour and Department of Home Affairs, especially in the affected areas of Robertson and Bredasdorp, where the agricultural sector is implicated. Support is also provided to producers in terms of linkages regarding the appropriate processes to follow. Both the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the representatives of commercial agriculture agree that the employment of undocumented foreigners is unacceptable and that anyone guilty of such practices must face the full might of the law,” said Jacobs.

The Western Cape Provincial Chief Inspector for the Department of Employment and Labour, David Esau, also agreed that there has been an influx of undocumented workers.
Our experience and interactions with the surrounding towns seems to indicate that undocumented workers are being recruited either by farms or labour brokers or independent contractors.
Department of Labour
“Our experience and interactions with the surrounding towns seems to indicate that undocumented workers are being recruited either by farms or labour brokers or independent contractors. We have identified these problems through our engagements with municipalities to find solutions on how to deal with the influx of foreign nationals in the communities.
“At the end of the day, it is an issue that lies with the municipalities,” said Esau. He further explains that a collaboration between various departments has been formed to address the situation.
“We have formed a collaboration with various departments such as the police, Home Affairs and Sars to initiate programmes of action to identify the illegal practice of employing undocumented foreign nationals. Legal actions will be taken against employers if it is found that they have employed undocumented foreign nationals.”
During the unrest in Robertson it was alleged that farm owners specifically ask labour brokers for undocumented workers. The Department of Employment and Labour is aware of this practice.
“We have investigated the matter and we are working closely with the department of Home Affairs to ensure that no illegal foreign nationals are employed,” said Esau.
In a statement released by Agri Western Cape, it implores employers to stay on the right side of the law.
“According to legislation, all foreign employees must have the necessary, legal documentation and Agri Western Cape asks that all employers stay on the right side of the law. The appointment of illegal workers cannot be justified, but agriculture is not responsible for the policing of illegal workers. The draconian legislation implemented is not contributing to the solution,” said Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape.
The appointment of illegal workers cannot be justified, but agriculture is not responsible for the policing of illegal workers. The draconian legislation implemented is not contributing to the solution
Agri Western Cape
Strydom is of the opinion that the problem starts with illegal foreigners moving freely through South Africa’s borders and settling in the country.
“As an organisation, we ask for guidance regarding the verification of documentation, but that these solutions be practical in order for agriculture production to continue. The agricultural sector has been asking for guidance for the past two years, and there is still no workable solution.”
Agri Western Cape also requests that all departments and relevant role-players work side by side, “to address this enormous problem.”
Standard reached out to the Department of Home Affairs on numerous occasions regarding the influx of foreign nationals, but by the time of going to print no feedback had been received. 

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