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South African Immigration Policies of Concern to International Business

There are growing complaints from international business firms about South Africa’s immigration rules. They say bureaucracy and red tape are making it harder for them to do business in the country because it’s difficult to find workers with the skills and experience they need.

For more on the story, English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua spoke with VOA reporter Delia Robertson in Johannesburg about the immigration controversy:

“Last year, South Africa promulgated a new immigration law that had been in the works plus on a decade (more than 10 years) in fact. It closed some loopholes that people had used in the past in order to be able to live and work in South Africa legally. But business people are amongst those who say that this has now created difficulties. Even heads of companies, international companies with international experience, are finding it difficult to get the proper documentation for their staff in South Africa.”

In recent months, immigration has become a very hot topic in the United States; is it the same in South Africa? Robertson says, “It’s a fairly hot issue on several levels. You have a lot of people who have come here from African countries, some legally, some illegally. Many of them say that life for them here is very difficult. Getting proper documentation is very difficult. There’s a great sensitivity amongst South Africans towards large inflows of people because of the very, very high unemployment rate in this country; 27 percent is the official figure. A lot of people feel that foreign nationals could be coming here and taking jobs away from them, although the research doesn’t always underpin that opinion. And then you have business people, particularly, who feel that they would like it to be a lot easier for them to come here so that they can carry on their business here. And they use the kind of leverage that is available to them, saying that perhaps failure to act in their interests would not be good for the economy.”

Robertson says illegal immigrants are often used in agriculture and paid wages below that which a South African would receive for the same work.