The Immigration Department has accused the Chinese-owned Segecoa Golden Peacock Hotel of breaking the country’s immigration laws by exceeding the number of expatriates allowed to work at a single company.
The department has since asked Segecoa—whose hotel is in the capital Lilongwe but has mushroomed into a conglomerate with several subsidiary companies trading in shopping centres and construction—to scale down on its expatriate numbers.
A letter from the chief immigration officer, signed by permit officer Fletcher Nyirenda, says it regrets to note that the number of Chinese expatriates at the company has exceeded the maximum quota of five.
“I write to you to note that the Department of Immigration has regrettably noted the increased number of expatriates against the maximum number of five expatriates.
“In light of these findings, the department will no longer entertain any new applicants and it will also scrutinise all renewals to minimise the number of expatriates in line with our laws.
“In view of the above information, most of the positions are now supposed to be taken over by Malawians that were understudying them per the country’s laws,” reads the letter dated March 24.
However, the letter falls short of stating the number of expatriates at the company, their positions and what action the department was considering on the matter.
Nation on Sunday has seen correspondence from the Immigration Department to the hotel management following a rejection of a work permit application from a Chinese national, Lin Wenwen, who sources say continues to work at the hotel.
Nation on Sunday has also seen another correspondence from Segecoa Golden Peacock through its general manager Jennifer Li, seeking a second consideration of Lin Wenwen’s application.
In the letter, Jennifer notes that Lin’s earlier rejection was based on the premise that Golden Peacock and its subsidiaries are a single entity; hence, the company sought to set the record straight that the entities have different certificates of incorporation.
“There is a possibility that your office is treating us as one organisation,” wrote Li.
As we went to press Immigration spokesperson Martha Gononda had not yet responded to our questionnaire on the number of expatriates working at Segecoa and whether the problem has affected other organisations.
Segecoa officials refused to comment on the matter while Lin also said: “I don’t know anything about this issue; stop bothering me on this issue. Thank you.”
But workers at the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said despite his rejection, Lin continues to work at the company as a marketing manager, adding that the company employs over 21 Chinese expatriates.
Golden Peacock Hotel and Shopping Complex is one of the huge Chinese government investments in the country since the two nations established diplomatic relations in 2008.
Since the switch of diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China during the era of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, Beijing has invested heavily in Malawi’s infrastructure through loans and grants for construction of signature projects.
The projects include the Parliament building in Lilongwe, the Karonga-Chitipa Road, the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) in Thyolo, presidential villas and the ongoing construction of a national stadium, among others.