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Nicholas Woode-Smith | Denying Zimbabweans their UIF is criminal – News24

Monday, 09 January
23 Sep 2022
Despite paying into their UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) monthly, Zimbabwean nationals who have lost their jobs because of the scrapping of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits will not be paid their UIF benefits.
This is grossly unfair and downright criminal. UIF is a project to provide relief to workers left unemployed and is funded by their monthly contributions. But, despite the money effectively belonging to the workers by virtue of them funding into it – it is now being denied to them.
The National Employer’s Association of SA (NEASA) discovered all this after being questioned by many of its members. They found that while the UIF Act provides for employees who are available and capable of working, the scrapping of the exemption permits renders many Zimbabwean workers legally incapable of finding employment – and thus ineligible for receiving the money that they contributed.
READ: Understanding the Zimbabwean permit case
Employers of Zimbabwean nationals must dismiss their workers – but because they cannot find work, they are thus illegible for receiving their UIF payouts. It’s a legal quagmire that threatens the lives and livelihoods of countless workers who live alongside us.
But, the data shows that not only is the negative effect of foreign nationals on unemployment negligible, but that foreign nationals may actually contribute to creating employment by becoming consumers, entrepreneurs, and investors in the areas they live in.
Zimbabwean workers aren’t a drain on our economy. And they don’t ‘steal’ jobs. Immigrants are a boon to any economy that accepts them and allows their risk-taking spirit to flourish. The only time that an influx of skilled and enthusiastic labour is ever a negative is if there is literally no economy to absorb the labour. But that isn’t the case in South Africa. Immigrants have found opportunities across the country – becoming skilled workers, participating in the service industry, and starting businesses. This doesn’t steal opportunities from South Africans – it creates extra wealth that enables more opportunities for all.
READ: 180 000 Zimbabweans face deportation as permit deadline looms
The scrapping of the exemption permits and the rising tide of xenophobia that is leading to the denial of work visas and alternative legal means for foreign nationals to find work is a huge risk to our economy, and the start of a human rights crisis.
Zimbabweans flock to South Africa because there are opportunities here that aren’t available in their home country. The ruling party of Zimbabwe, with the support of the ANC, destroyed their economy and rendered it unworkable. That isn’t the fault of Zimbabweans. Especially not Zimbabweans seeking a better life for themselves here. It is the fault of the same ideology, and many of the same people, that rule aspects of our government and threatens to destroy our prosperity today.
We have lived alongside Zimbabweans for generations now and still haven’t descended into chaos. Rather, the track record of Zimbabwean people living and working in South Africa is one of productivity and economic growth that benefits everyone.
READ: Scrapping Zim permit will cause humanitarian crisis, activists warn
But now, the contributions of Zimbabwean workers are being scoffed at, eliminated, and ignored. And it has left hardworking people destitute and penniless. 
Through no true fault of their own, Zimbabweans are being denied their UIF payouts. This is unacceptable. They earned their payouts. And denying it to them helps no unemployed South African find a job.
Says NEASA: 
Xenophobia in South Africa is based on desperation, ignorance, and hatred of the ‘alien.’ It begins a slippery slope that starts with peaceful foreign workers being denied work and their just payouts and ends with violence. The violence has already permeated our society repeatedly throughout our recent history. The government’s scrapping of the exemption permits, and its increased tolerance of xenophobia, is an unwelcome sign that will embolden xenophobes to demand more and more concessions.
And, it won’t just be foreign nationals that will be denied work and their UIF payouts. Already, a hatred of the alien led to the riots last year and the consistent calls for the expropriation of “European” property.
READ: Zimbabwe by-elections are attracting huge crowds, but don’t read too much into them
Xenophobia is a precedent. If it is allowed to fester, it encourages a hatred of all groups that the hateful mob considers alien. It cannot be allowed to survive.
Zimbabwean workers who have been dismissed, especially as a result of the scrapping of the exemption permits, are entitled to their UIF payouts. Otherwise, the state has effectively stolen their hard-earned and saved money.
And while the state pays the money it owes the people it scorns, let it ponder how far it will really go to appease the hateful of this society.
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