Statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (of the Republic of South Africa) on the working conditions of South African citizens abroad.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (dfa) has noted, with concern, matters relating to working conditions of South African citizens abroad, as reported in the media. The Department wishes to make an earnest appeal to South Africans who may have experienced problems such as poor or exploitative working conditions to report these to the Department's Consular Section at (012) 3511000 or alternatively at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regrettably, the Department is not in a position to respond to media reports where detail of the alleged victims are not provided and wishes to encourage victims to approach Government with these matters. Where our people have fallen victim to unscrupulous agents they must report them to the Department of Labour and provide this vital information to the dfa.
It must also be mentioned that the phenomenon of being lured by false promises is not a trend that only affects South Africans and we therefore appeal to our people to ensure that they have properly signed employment contracts, work permits and funds before they embark on the so called "dream job". Where possible, prospective job applicants, to foreign countries, must check, with the diplomatic missions of those countries (in South Africa), the bona fides of the company (offering the employment) and the local employment conditions in the countries that they intend travelling to.
In cases where our people have faced employment related problems, and where they have approached either the Department or our Mission, we have rendered consular assistance and no legal advice. In most cases, the employment contract determines the relationship between the employer and employee. Our people are also encouraged to make use of the local judicial process (in the country where the dispute may have arisen) to address employment disputes.
Government will ensure that citizens are not victims of abuse or exploitation, both at home and abroad. However, it must also be noted that issues relating to employment are of a private nature between an employer and employee and are governed by contracts and labour laws. Our people are encouraged to use the facilities available to them to resolve disputes, while Government will intervene in cases of exploitation. Actions by both the dfa and missions will depend on the nature of the incident having to be dealt with.
Prospective employees must note that in certain countries there is the principle of "sponsorship" by the employer, where the employer is responsible for all aspects of the upkeep of the employee during the employment contract. This places obligations on both parties and it is strongly recommended that prospective employees understand the conditions of employment before they undertake it.
The passport remains the property of the South African Government. It is illegal for a passport to be confiscated from the holder, except when a person is arrested or when a person is detained by a foreign immigration authority. In certain countries an employee surrenders his/her passport to the employer for the duration of the contract as the employer is responsible for the employee, including any debt that the employee may incur.
In these cases, employees are aware of the requirement prior to them accepting the employment. While Government does not condone this practice, the employee has the right to conclude such agreements. We are aware that many employees willingly accept the terms of such employment and most do not have problems.
Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa
Spokesperson: Department of Foreign Affairs