A South African judge recently made a ruling against Mukuru, the market leader when it comes to foreign remittances to Zimbabwe. According to the judge, Mukuru had an unfair employment policy where they preferred hiring Zimbabweans and Malawians for positions that could be filled by South Africans. Mukuru had taken the South African Department of Home Affairs to court after the department refused to give Mukuru a permit that would allow Mukuru to employ more foreign nationals.

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.

Western Cape High Court judge’s remarkets while passing the judgement

Anti-foreign sentiment

Mukuru provides financial services across Southern Africa mostly in the form of remittance services to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Given the sizeable Zimbabwean population in South Africa, it would be reasonable for Mukuru to want to employ people who can speak the native languages of these countries for marketing, sales and support services. While it’s almost certain that most people speak fluent English there is still a sizeable number of people who need the company’s services who might not speak fluent English. These people also tend to be underserved as most companies go after easily accessible clients.

Mukuru operates in South Africa as two entities: Mukuru Africa and Mukuru Financial Services. Mukuru Financial services currently have about 137 124 workers of whom 124 are foreign nationals. On the other hand, Mukuru Africa has about 546 employees, with 101 of them being foreigners. These seem pretty reasonable proportions given what type of business Mukuru is in. The company had applied for the following vacancies to be filled by foreign personnel:

  • 10 customer service representatives,
  • 5 agents supervisors,
  • 7 corridor champions,
  • 10 number and verification officers,
  • 10 regional sales supervisors,
  • 20 verification officers,
  • 23 information officers,
  • and 10 area sales supervisor

The Department of Home Affairs probably picking up the prevailing anti-foreign sentiments that a sweeping across South Africa decided to turn down the application and it seems even the High Court was also convinced by the DoH’s arguments. The ruling makes it sound like Mukuru has some sort of anti-South African hiring policy an assertion not supported by the ratios shown above.