A lapse in the immigration system is allowing foreigners with no special skills to get temporary employment permits (TEPs), enabling them to get jobs that Malawians need, Weekend Nation has established.
For example, our investigations have shown that foreigners with qualifications as low as a secondary school certificate have been issued TEPs to work in high positions at one tobacco company at Kanengo in Lilongwe.
According to the Ministry of Trade—a member of the Employment Permit Committee chaired by the Department of Immigration—permits are granted to expatriates “that are well qualified for the work that the investors employ them for.”
“It should be noted that these permits are applied for by the investors themselves on the understanding that these employees will provide optimum stewardship of their investment. The expatriates that are approved for employment by the Employment Permit Committee are only those that are qualified for the work that the investors employ them for and are subsequently cleared for security,” said Wiskes Nkombezi, the ministry’s spokesperson.
A policy statement on TEPs is based on the premise that:
• The country is deficient in certain skills which investors may require for business success;
• Expatriate personnel should not replace locals but supplement them and
• Malawians are able to adequately acquire skills and expertise to ensure that productivity of the country improves.
has established that the Department of Immigration, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Home Affairs, issued TEPs to two foreign employees of Premium Tama Tobacco Limited in Lilongwe whose qualifications are a secondary school certificate and an apprenticeship certificate.
The other, whose TEP was renewed for the third time, is a high school graduate.
We have since learnt that after noticing the anomaly, the same Immigration Department that issued the permits, has since withdrawn the documents.
Our sources at Premium Tama also confirmed that immigration staff visited their premises to verify if the three were indeed working there.
“When reports reached management, all the three had to run away and they haven’t returned since then,” said the source.
This happened in March, according to our source.
Documents in our possession show that Premium Tama Tobacco Limited managing director Tom Malata applied for the employees’ TEPs on October 24 2012.
“We would like to apply for temporary employment permit for Mr. Alexander Ross Mackey. Mr. Alex Mackay is employed as deputy managing director for Premium Tama Tobacco Limited to oversee the operations of Premium Tama in Malawi. He holds expertise in tobacco buying, processing and selling,” wrote Malata to chief immigration officer Hudson Mankhwala.
Mackay’s application was not accompanied by any qualification as required by the Immigration Department because he says his certificates were lost in 2009 when the Bingu wa Mutharika regime declared him a prohibited immigrant. President Joyce Banda pardoned him in 2012.
But in an affidavit supporting the permit application, Mackay says he is a “matriculate from Capricorn High School in South Africa”.
According to Ministry of Education spokesperson Lindiwe Chide, matriculation certificate of South Africa is equivalent to O-level or MSCE locally.
The other of the three expatriates at Premium Tama who got a TEP is Stephen Bragg.
Malata said of him to chief immigration officer Mankhwala: “Mr. Stephen Bragg is employed as regional processing manager for Premium Tama Tobacco to oversee the operations of Premium Tobacco in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. He holds expertise in processing tobacco.”
According to documents we have seen, Bragg holds a certificate of apprenticeship from the Canadian National Railways.
The third Premium Tama expatriate is Michael Drew Maloney.
“Mr. Michael Maloney is employed as leaf and sales assistant for Premium Tama Tobacco Limited to assist in training of account executives and targeting new customers,” wrote Malata to Mankhwala.
Maloney holds international general certificate of secondary education of the University of Cambridge International Examinations. This qualification is equivalent to MSCE or O-level locally, according to University of Malawi Admissions Office.
The three expatriates joined Premium Tama Tobacco last September just days after the company retrenched seven managers.
These are two sales leaders Sydney Kintu and Felix Banda; three leaf buyers Henry Gwazayani, Frank Mambala and Zuze Soko; security manager Major Paul Mphwina and green logistics manager Patrick Mphongozidana.
The company says it retrenched the employees, who have since sued it for unfair dismissal, “due to economic difficulties.” The case is yet to be concluded.
“The company has been facing this unfavourable business environment for the past few years and the situation is not yet improving as expected. As a result of this, the company is going through a restructuring process to downsize its operations,” wrote human resource manager, a Y. Chikapa, to one of the retrenched.
Mackay was granted TEP number 65398; Bragg got TEP number 93934 whereas Maloney’s TEP is number 93935, according to records at Immigration headquarters.
According to Malawi Government policy statement, expatriates should not replace locals, but the seven fired in August allege that the three expatriates have taken over their jobs at pay rates higher than them all combined.
Immigration spokesperson Martin Ngongolo said the department is handling the matter in conjunction with Premium Tama.
“The issue to do with permits for the three foreigners is currently being handled by the department in conjunction with Premium Tama. Their permits were not revoked as you are made to believe.
“There is a committee which sits to check on the issuance of work permits and only expertise which is not available in the country is considered for the permit, but there should be a Malawian understudy who can eventually takeover,” said Ngongolo.
In an email interview, Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) secretary general Pontius Kalichero said “skills these so-called expatriates bring are not scarce as we are made to believe in most cases as they are readily available locally.”
Currently, there are about 14 000 expatriates in Malawi, most of them in the industrial sector due to the increase in technical assistance from China, according to Gongolo.