Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has told factory workers that the continent is vital for the country’s economy.
“We sell R260bn worth of goods to other African countries… That R260bn creates more than 160,000 jobs in South Africa,” Minister Patel said.
These jobs are in clothing, car manufacturing and the selling of agricultural produce to other African countries. Speaking at a general meeting with factory workers in Pretoria on Wednesday, he warned workers that if South Africa cuts the rest of Africa out of its economy and the rest of Africa cuts South Africa out of its economy, people in the country will lose their jobs.
“We need to stop the attacks on fellow Africans. We need to deal with the frustrations and problems in a different way,” Minister Patel said.
He said the top countries that South Africa’s clothing industry sells to are Mozambique, Zambia, the United States of America and Zimbabwe. In the footwear sector and leather products, the top countries that SA sells to are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. In the textiles sector, the top country that SA sells to is Zimbabwe.
“The attacks on foreign nationals must stop. We cannot take the law into our own hands and kill fellow human beings,” Minister Patel said.
He said government is hard at work to address the problems of South Africa, including unemployment, lack of housing, the provision of water and electricity. This also includes managing migration properly.
“We must make sure at our border posts, we have proper procedures. We must make sure that people have papers if they are here legally. We must make sure we manage the numbers of people who come into South Africa,” Minister Patel said.
He called on companies to treat all workers equally, regardless of race or whether they are foreign nationals or not.
“We must make it clear to companies - don’t exploit foreign workers. Don’t pay them less than South African workers… so much so that South African workers are put aside. Let everybody be treated equally because the law applies to everyone equally,” Minister Patel said.
He said he will have a meeting with the Department of Labour to request an inspection in companies to ensure they are complying with labour laws.
“We are going to deal with the frustrations of our people,” Minister Patel said.
He said the country needs to deal with the people who are in the country illegally.
“Foreign workers who are here legally belong in the union movement, in our churches, they belong in our communities. We’ve got to organise them and make them feel welcome. They are part of us,” he said.