Unethical businesses that employ undocumented immigrants are going to be dealt with harshly and managers will be arrested for not adhering to the law, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba warned on Thursday.
"Companies, businesses: Be warned. We are coming for you. We will charge them, there's no doubt. The manager will be charged. Often times, we focus on the undocumented employee and not the company," he said.
They would deport such immigrants, he said, but the businesses would not be left unscathed.
Gigaba made an example of a large supermarket group that had employed 63 people without documentation.
Three shops were found to have employed undocumented immigrants, and two managers were arrested, while another manager was not on duty at the time.
SA labour laws require businesses to employ a minimum of 60 percent South Africans.
"But we are not saying businesses should only employ 60 percent of South Africans. Go higher," Gigaba said, briefing media in Cape Town.
Penalties to be imposed
Businesses were a critical factor in dealing with some of the challenges facing communities, such as Rosettenville, he said.
They should not be fuelling the tensions by playing locals off against foreigners and should be on the side of the law.
"This is the message we are taking to the rest of business and it will feature strongly in our upcoming meetings. There will be workplace inspections, and penalties for employing undocumented foreigners will be imposed," he said.
He expressed concern at the latest outbreak of violence, while carefully reiterating that it was not merely linked to xenophobic attacks.
Gigaba said communities seemed focused on crime, drugs and prostitution.
They did not target people according to nationality, he said repeatedly on Thursday.
He called on various governments to desist from pointing fingers at each other, as that did not help, while calling on members of the public to act responsibly and not undo the work government has been doing.
"The dynamics of migration, crime, drugs, prostitution, fraud and unfair labour practices are too serious to be turned into populists' politicking," Gigaba said.
'Not all immigrants are criminals'
SA still remained the most diverse countries in the world, he said.
Gigaba also mentioned an anti-immigrant protest march planned for Friday and appealed to community members and protest organisers to be responsible.
They were working with police to ensure order.
"We called for visible and effective policing, precisely because failure to respond would be irresponsible in the extreme, as it would serve to further fuel tensions among communities," he said.
The minister said it was important for communities to understand that not all immigrants were undocumented or in the country illegally.
"And not all immigrants are criminals," he said.