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Restaurant fracas: Unemployment is the real problem, says Fedhasa

EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Joburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals.Photo Sizwe Ndingane/ EFF

EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Joburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals.Photo Sizwe Ndingane/ EFF

Published Jan 21, 2022

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“If we removed every foreign national in SA, we would still have a severe unemployment problem. We need to look at the source of why we have such unacceptable levels of unemployment,” says Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) chairperson Rosemary Anderson.

This comes after the political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Gauteng confronted restaurants in Menlyn Mall in Pretoria about the "employment ratio" between South Africans and foreign nationals in establishments. The EFF said it wanted to establish the gap and later said the restaurants were trying to hire South Africans.

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EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Joburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals.Photo Sizwe Ndingane/ EFF

Statistics South Africa in November released grim figures showing that unemployment hit new record levels, rising to 34.9 percent of the labour force in the third quarter of 2021. Compounding the economic woes, inflation in South Africa accelerated to a near five-year high in December 2021, the latest data shows.

Anderson said yesterday it was illegal for anyone to ask an establishment to furnish information about the staff unless they were certified officials or inspectors acting lawfully with sufficient reason.

"In terms of the Popi Act and the Constitution, disclosing personal information is in contravention of South African law. Fedhasa and its members and the hospitality industry at large, are thus legally bound to not disclose the personal information of employees, including the nationality of staff, to anyone unless they are officials. If this information is disclosed to a person not legislatively entitled to it, the employer will be breaking the law of our land," she said.

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Anderson said the reasons behind the high unemployment rate were corruption, crime, and the breakdown of the provision of bulk services such as electricity, water and sanitation, and roads.

"So let’s all start looking at what is causing unemployment and work towards sustainable solutions of the problems, instead of trying to put band-aids on symptoms and not the causes," she said.

According to Anderson, one way to create millions of new tourism and hospitality jobs in South Africa is to urgently implement a waiver on visas for significant international tourism markets and introduced a truly eVisa system, not just an online system that is currently being developed.

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The EFF came under fire on Wednesday after it visited establishments such as Ocean Basket, Hard Rock Cafe, and Baobab Cafe and Restaurant.

EFF leader Julius Malema visited the restaurants with a delegation. At Kream restaurant at the Mall of Africa in Midrand, Johannesburg, Malema forced one of the owners to meet with him. The manager Romon De Comarmond eventually met with Malema.

Restaurant Association of South Africa chief executive Wendy Alberts was unavailable for comment.

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The department of labour on Wednesday sent out a strong message to anyone intimidating employees.

"The premise of our legislation is predicated upon protecting all employees despite their nationality as long as employment relationship can be identified. The same rights afforded to a South African employee, such rights apply to foreign national employees," it said.

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said: "We prevail upon any organisation or political party that feels or comes across non-compliance with the labour laws to raise such matter with the department of employment and labour or bargaining council if such a sector falls under the jurisdiction of a bargaining council. We intercede with such an organisation to act cautiously and within the ambit of the law. One cannot seek to see the enforcement of the law by breaking the law too.

Nxesi also said quotas needed to be imposed on foreign workers and semi-skilled employment needed to be regulated.

Meanwhile, The Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) in the Western Cape Province said yesterday it was set to embark on week-long mega blitz inspections targeting the Hospitality Sector.

The inspectorate will be testing compliance on the National Minimum Wage Act; Occupational Health and Safety Act; Basic Conditions of Employment Act Unemployment Insurance Actand Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.

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