Ramaphosa tells South Africans not to blame unemployment on foreign nationals
President Cyril Ramaphosa told Members of Parliament on Thursday afternoon that the challenge of unemployment compounded with tension between citizens and foreign nationals over limited resources was complex and needed a “proper” solution.
Ramaphosa was replying orally to questions from MPs during a virtual National Assembly plenary.
He noted that government had a duty to preserve and help create jobs for South Africans, but also needed foreign direct investment and scarce skills to grow the economy.
The president said this in response to a question from African Transformation Movement MP Thandiswa Marawu. Marawu lamented job losses in the formal employment market and the youth unemployment rate at just over sixty percent.
The ATM MP asked what steps Ramaphosa would take to ensure that trading in the informal economy was reserved only for South Africans, and to instruct the government to review work permits, revoking all permits issued for work that South Africans could do.
Ramaphosa said reminded Marawu that Cabinet had established an inter-ministerial committee on the employment of foreign nationals, convened by Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi and co-chaired by Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi.
‘Resist the urge to blame’
“We are called upon to use all means to rebuild our economy, preserve jobs and create new ones.
We need to look at issues of migration and economic activity. As we do so, we must resist the urge to blame our economic challenges on foreign nationals working in the country, legally or illegally,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said the inter-ministerial committee would deal with the migration of foreign nationals for employment and economic opportunity and decisions on special dispensation permits. It addresses scarce critical skills needed to grow the economy, Ramaphosa added.
“In the end we do need to deal with the challenge that our people always talk about, of foreign nationals who are here in great numbers in our country. We need to deal with it properly, politically and we need to deal with it historically,” Ramaphosa said.
ATM MP Vuyolwethu Zungula challenged Ramaphosa, saying there is nothing populist about asking government to address the migration issue, citing recent laws in Botswana where that government demarcated specific sectors of the economy for locals only.
“There should be no quotas or ratios for foreign jobs and foreigners should only take jobs that South Africans have no skills for. Why do we need an inter-ministerial committee on work and migration?” Zungula asked.
“We are aware of these developments, including what is said in Botswana. It was absolutely straightforward and not seen as xenophobic. We are scanning the continent on this matter.
This structure will look at this very closely and base its work on the cases of other countries,” Ramaphosa said.
Democratic Alliance MP John Steenhuisen Steenhuisen said South Africa should create many more jobs by attracting foreign direct investment, but said the country continues to scare foreign direct investment away with policies such as land expropriation and National Health Insurance.
Ramaphosa said Steenhuisen was “hard of hearing” and replied: “We are committed to the path of implementing reforms that we know will attract investors. This notion that we are committed to policies that will scare investors away is not the case. You need to listen more carefully.”