Validity of work permits to be extended

She said the process would require a legislative amendment to the Immigration Act, and was being treated as a matter of urgency.

“We will ask Cabinet and Parliament to deal with this matter before the end of the year.

“In the meantime, interim measures will be put in place to assist multinational companies,” the minister said.

The action comes amid concerns by multinational companies that immigration red tape and the short spaced work permits were hurting their operations in South Africa.

The British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa said in a recent statement that certain immigration measures “are having a detrimental impact on the short-term effective running of local and international business in South Africa.

They also warned that the stifling measures could have adverse ripple effects on South Africa’s prospects for faster economic growth.

At a meeting of the country’s Black Managers Forum last week, Mapisa-Nqakula defended the government’s position on allowing an influx of trained professionals into the country.

She said South Africa was in the fortunate position of being a “pull country” in the SADC region and therefore attracted a significant number of both legal and illegal immigrants.

The minister however said while there had been much emphasis on the “damage” that immigrants were doing in the country, more attention should be placed on highlighting the constructive role that immigrants play.

“Little attention is given to how immigration can play a role I economic growth,” she said.

South African citizens have been widely criticised in some countries in the region and further up in the continent for xenophobic tendencies that in a number of cases have turned violent.

Experts say the xenophobia is largely a result of feelings by the locals that skilled foreigners are flooding the country “to take their jobs”.

But Mapisa-Nqakula has been defensive of the foreigners saying the growing xenophobic tendencies should be stamped out as it was “spreading like wildfire”. “We must . . . appreciate the fact that a developing democracy such as ours might not have all the critical skills we require, and that there might be a need to attract foreign skills in a regulated manner,” she said.

Under the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) launched by deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka recently, the government has begun a probe into the extent of skills shortage in the country.

“Once these have been determined, I will be able . . . to publish a new list of scarce skills for quota work permits in terms of which foreigners can come into the country to seek employment, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

August 2006
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