Mukuru’s labour practices ‘unfair’

Financial services company Mukuru will have to revisit its employment policy after the Western Cape High Court lambasted it for ignoring South Africa’s employment laws in favour of hiring foreigners in positions South Africans can occupy.

Mukuru Group’s subsidiaries, Mukuru Financial Services (MFS) and Mukuru Africa (MA) unsuccessfully applied for a corporate visa to allow it to employ foreigners.

MFS wanted permission to hire 100 sales and support consultants, 10 controllers, and five call centre team leaders, while MA applied for 10 customer service representatives, five agents supervisors, seven corridor champions, 10 number and verification officers, 10 regional sales supervisors, 20 verification officers, 23 information officers, and 10 area sales supervisors.

The essential academic requirement for all these posts was a Grade 12 or equivalent.

At the heart of the company’s argument was that it needed suitably qualified employees fluent in the indigenous languages of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and other “relevant” languages. The Mukuru group of companies uses financial technology solutions, including mobile phones and web-based technology to facilitate domestic and international money transfers, particularly across the African continent and parts of Asia.

The Department of Labour rejected the applications for the certificate on the basis that the skills were available in the country and that the foreign language requirement was discriminatory to local citizens.

The department found that MFS had a staff complement of 137 124, of whom 124 were foreigners while MA had a staff complement of 546, of whom 101 were foreigners.

Mukuru then turned to the courts for recourse. However, Judge Daniel Thulare dismissed Mukuru’s application to set aside the department’s decision.“The applicants unfairly exclude South African citizens from employment opportunities in South Africa in favour of foreign nationals. In my view, this constituted unfair discrimination on grounds that included a race, ethnic or social origin, culture, language, and birth. This unfair discrimination resulted in the applicants being found wanting in respect of private sector development as a strategy of the developmental and transformative state.

“They failed to promote economic growth, which includes contributions by foreign nationals but also helps reduce poverty through deliberate actions to defeat the financial exclusion of the poor South African citizens,” the judgment reads.

For both general and corporate work visas, the benchmarking certificate recommendations must provide the following information:

  • That despite diligent search, the employer has been unable to find a suitable citizen or permanent resident with qualifications or skills and experience equivalent to those of the applicant;
  • The applicant has qualifications or proven skills and experience in line with the job offer; and
  • The salary and benefits of the applicant are not inferior to the average salary and benefits of citizens or permanent residents occupying similar positions in the republic.

Mukuru could not be reached for comment.

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