Cell C Chinese workers arrested

2010-11-14 15:47

Johannesburg - Sixteen Chinese workers sub-contracted to build cellphone company Cell C's high-speed 4G network were detained in Durban for allegedly having invalid work permits, the home affairs department said on Sunday.

"We inspected 16 work permits at the ZTE Corporation's premises in Durban on Thursday, after receiving a complaint from someone about the validity of permits for workers in from China," home affairs inspectorate spokesperson Modiri Matthews told Sapa.

"We detained 16 people for further investigation... our system has to be checked and investigations are continuing... no charges or arrests have been made."

Home affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the raid in Durban also resulted in the arrest of a home affairs official.

"It is our understanding that the arrest was related to the officer bringing foreigners into the country."

The raids on ZTE in Durban, as well as in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, were a joint effort between home affairs, the immigration inspectorate and police, he said.

The Sunday Times had reported that Chinese telecoms company ZTE Corporation was under investigation for allegedly bringing hundreds of illegal workers into the country every month.

R2.9bn contract

It reported that ZTE had won a Cell C contract worth R2.9bn in January to roll out its high-speed network.

In a statement Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said the company had entered into a contract with ZTE to expand its network in the southern parts of South Africa. He said Cell C however was not responsible for employee matters of its subcontractors.

"The contract between Cell C and ZTE is a "turnkey" contract. This means that ZTE as an independent contractor... is accountable for engaging its own employees and sub-contractors.

"Cell C is not responsible for the recruitment policies or processes of ZTE."

Reichelt said he had only become aware of alleged illegal Chinese workers when he was approached with questions by the Sunday newspaper.

"Cell C has asked ZTE to urgently provide it with information in this regard and has since been assured by ZTE that all of its workers have the necessary and legal documentation to work in South Africa."

Applications delayed

ZTE spokesperson Chris Fuentes said it was a ZTE, and not a Cell C matter. The company had applied to home affairs a while ago to have work permits extended for its Chinese workers.

"It seems our applications were delayed... there is a major problem with the department... after the World Cup, home affairs was on strike," Fuentes said.

"It is not just us, but many multinational companies which have their applications delayed. What happened is that our people came here with a 90-day visa. We then asked for work permits. Even when the visas expired, the permits were not processed.

"What we perhaps should have done is promoted dialogue with the department, voicing our concerns and challenges that we had experienced with delays."

Fuentes said with such a short turnaround time for their contract they had been forced to look for workers from various places. They had not been trying to promote using only Chinese labourers.

Fuentes denied reports that 16 people had been detained. He said only three were detained in Durban because they did not have their passports on them. They were released soon after producing them. A person at the company's Cape Town branch was detained and released on Thursday.

"Right now we are collecting information to send out a release showing all our people are totally legal."

Importing labour

The Congress of SA Trade Unions said there was no justification for importing labour from overseas when unemployment in South Africa was so high.

"I am sure there are South African workers with the requisite skills," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told Sapa.

If there weren't any people skilled enough, locals should be trained.

"It's outrageous. If the allegations are true, we can say it is tantamount to human trafficking... labour brokering on a global scale."

  • Vice Peter - 2010-11-14 16:48

    I agree with Cosatu, but what are they going to do about it? This whole thing is bull$hit. There are so many foreigners that are in the country, whether legally or illegally it's immaterial. The fact is, South Africa has skills in the areas in question, especially ICT. Where there are no adequate skills, training is available. Most of these imported "skills" come here to be trained on the job, by South Africans. You have a lot of imports from India who use SA as a training ground and get paid good money for it, while our people remain unemployed and companies profiteer form this injustice and cruel practices. Big consulting IT firms are involved this. I don't know how the government and labour movements can sit back and do nothing when unemployment figures hit the roof and crime won't dissipate. Something ought to be wrong somewhere; somebody is not doing his/her work.

  • David C - 2010-11-14 17:16

    So the Trevor Noah advert was partly true. Cell C is not being watched like a hawk but they are being watched by The Hawks...........

  • nhleks, pmb - 2010-11-14 22:32

    is C stand for Chinesse?

  • M - 2010-11-15 00:28

    The fact is that the DHA changes their procedures last May/June after which all applications for permits will be processed in Pretoria instead of the regional offices. Where it used to take up to 30 days to process an application, it now takes more then 3 months. That in itself is not a problem, if the DHA could at least indicate what the ETA is on the application. And that seems to be impossible as there are little to no applications for work permits processed since June and no one knows when to expect a reply from the DHA. The only response is: in process. I am in this country for about 10 years now and had to renew my permit in July. I am waiting for 3.5 months now and there is no end in sight as to when I can expect an answer. The regional office nor the call centre is not able to give feedback on the progress, the DG is not answering mail, the minister of performance monitoring at the presidents office is not either. And during this long wait, I can not provide for my family in a legal way as one can not work without a valid work permit. What is Home Affairs thinking? That they can put peoples lives on hold indefinitely because they implemented a process without having the capacity? If they don't want us any more, reject the applications but don't use these delay tactics hoping the problem will resolve itself by foreigners leaving the country. And I can assure you that if that happens, only the skilled people leave that actually do pay tax and assist in building this country, not the illegal immigrants that are a burden on the state. So when ZTE was required to deliver in accordance with their contact and DHA was not able to provide timelines on a possible outcome it not strange that they took the risk of starting the work without valid permits. DHA changes the rules without understanding the economical impact and they are the only ones to blame. If the Chinese where not welcome their applications had to be denied not delayed indefinitely.

  • Bogo - 2010-11-15 03:01

    I have been waiting for a work-permit for a year n subcntract to feed my family the sad thing is I see a lot of unqualified South Africans in my industry n some of them in high positions unable to articulate themselves in English n worse still they cannot do the job! A South African is not prepared to work on weekends whereas I do to make ends meet! If my permit is approved will finish my certification n leave the country for overseas imagineSAQA does not evaluate international qualifications leaving me at a disadvantage!

  • mike - 2010-11-15 06:46

    @hmmm you are correct, Cell C are just not interested in putting up with the risk. They would rather deal with hard working, respectful, honest labour. They are trying to offer their clients a service. This is impossible if you have labour recruited from say the same pool as PnP or JuJu types

  • Realist - 2010-11-15 07:06

    You cannot wait for people to e trained when a job is subcontracted. The time factor of any project is important. The Government cannot create jobs but it can assist companies in special training of a suitable pool of candidates but there is a cost involved and the company cannot be expected to absorb the costs. The taxpayer will have to foot the bill for training under these circumstances. If this is not done then the training will not happen and SA will remain will too much unskilled labour. This can be applied to artisans who need to improve their skills e.g. specialist welders. Training centres are fine for apprentices but not artisans who have the basic skills but need the many hours of practice to become proficient in their trade. Cosatu should be lobbying government to follow this route and not make statements when "I am sure there are South African workers with the requisite skills," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told Sapa. I suggest he doesn't guess about skills but show the evidence to prove that these skills exist.

  • Honky - 2010-11-15 07:53

    Employ a South African and you are practically married to that person, regardless of whether they perform or not. ANC, wake up and smell the roses boys. This is how life works !

  • RR - 2010-11-15 07:57

    The point that I picked up on was the mysterious tip off to the police to check the work permits. This for me amounts to corporate bullying and the losers will be the consumers. Both MTN and Vodacom have been critical of Cell C's new campaign. Maybe this is because of a relationship gone bad or it could just be that Cell C is now able to offer a product and a service that rivals their own.

  • Richard - 2010-11-15 07:58

    What about all the illegal Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Congolese, Mozambique'ns and other Nationalities. ZTE is also not the only Chinese company operating here in SA, another is Huawei is doing the same thing with Chinese doing work for Telkom Mobile,Cell-C and others. At least the Chinese come and work and are not a drain on the economy as so called "refugees", they are also not involved in the drugs and money schemes like nigerians and others. If you going to clampo down on one, then do it fairly and clamp down on all! Get rid of all the "illegal" foreigners, i.e. those without proer documentation allowing them to work and live in SA and you will quickly have a very large number of jobs available to SA citizens. Also the reason these people get jobs is because they are flexable unlike the over politicised and unionized SA workers.

  • Eric Lehmann - 2010-11-15 08:03

    Check other simular companies in the telecoms companies

  • Gotcha - 2010-11-15 09:18

    THE TAX SYSTEM EXPLAINED IN BEER Suppose that every evening, 10 men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to R100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this :- The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay R1. The sixth would pay R3. The seventh would pay R7. The eighth would pay R12. The ninth would pay R18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay R59. So, that's what they decided to do....... The 10 men drank in the bar every evening and were quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner said, "Since you are all such good customers, I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by R20". Drinks for the 10 men would now cost just R80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the R20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realised that R20 divided by six is R3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay. Therefore, the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing. The sixth now paid R2 instead of R3 (33% saving). The seventh now paid R5 instead of R7 (28% saving). The eighth now paid R9 instead of R12 (25% saving). The ninth now paid R14 instead of R18 (22% saving). The tenth now paid R49 instead of R59 (16% saving). Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a rand out of the R20 saving," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,"but he got R10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a rand too. It's unfair - he got 10 times more benefit than me!" "That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get R10 back, when I got only R2? The wealthy always win!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "we didn't get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill! And that, boys and girls, journalists, labour unions and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier. David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

  • Zulu - 2010-11-15 09:58

    The problem is that the DHA is inefficient, they delay in processing permits for much needed skils and frustrate qualiofied foreign nationals. You then end up only having fraudulent unqualified foreing nationals as the reall scarece skills are offered better opporunities elsewhere. Hoe affairs needs to revisit their policies. They need to understand that there are skills that are scarce, not only in SA but all over the world. The world is fast becoming global and to be competitive countries that want to be ahead have gone a step further to open their gates to scarce skills. If they coninue wanting to fast track empowerment, we will end up like our neighbour Zimbabwe!

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