Official opening speech by the Deputy Minister of Labour, HRH Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa MP on the occasion of the Meeting o
25 February 2019

​Programme Director,

Honourable Deputy Mayor of iLembe District Municipality, Councillor Shandu,

Chairperson of the Committee of Senior Officials and Permanent

Secretary in the Zambian Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Mr

Barnaby Mulenga,

Executive Director of ARLAC, Dr Patrick Nalare,

Leaders of delegations and delegates from all the African Regional

Labour Administration Member Countries,

Distinguished Guests and Resource Persons,

Senior Government Officials here present,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you, on behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, to this Meeting of the ARLAC Committee of Senior Officials.

Programme Director, we welcome you to one of the most exquisitely beautiful locations in the Republic of South Africa, the Zimbali Holiday Resort, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Ladies and gentlemen, as you go about with your very important business in the next four days, starting today until Friday, 1 March 2019, you will agree with me that the choice of venue is indeed an inspired one.

This meeting is a precursor to the 45th ARLAC Governing Council Meeting for Labour, Employment and Manpower Ministers in Anglophone Africa that will take place tomorrow.

This will be followed by a Ministerial High Level Symposium on Violence and Harassment of Women and Men at Work on Thursday, and the launch of the Future of Work Global Commission’s Report on Friday.

It is my wish that both Director-General Mr Thobile Lamati of South Africa and the Executive Director Dr Nalare have cautioned you about the busy, yet very interesting few days ahead.

As a country, we always try to make events of this nature as interesting as possible.

We have taken the liberty to incorporate the important topic in furtherance of labour rights and social justice in the world work, as a clear attempt to pre-empt what will be contained in an International Labour Organisation Report that will soon to be released on the matters of violence and harassment at work.

We have also heeded the call from the ILO that encourages various regions of the world to celebrate the 100 years since its founding. These centenary celebrations will be conjoined with the launch on the African continent of the landmark report by the ILO Commission on the Future of Work.

On the last day, we will have the pleasure of welcoming President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa of South Africa, and other esteemed guests, who will preside over the Launch.

As South Africa, we are humbled to be bestowed with the honour of hosting the ARLAC Sapphire Anniversary. It is our unshaken conviction that after four and a half decades of existence the institution needs to be alive to the changes taking place around us.

And to do this, we rely on the counsel of experts like yourselves to apply your minds carefully on this.

An ARLAC that is geared for what the future throws at our respective labour markets cannot and should not be operating as it did twenty years ago. Our countries are changing. Africa is changing and so is the world.

For example, factors such as climate change, the continent-wide free trade agreement and the ‘Jobs of the Future’ are likely to impact the world of work more than anyone can imagine. It is thus a reasonable call for the continent to create or adapt its institutions to this inevitable reality. ARLAC is certainly amongst these institutions without a doubt.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

An ARLAC that is not responsive and quick enough to adapt to change will certainly not survive into the future; member countries would be wasting their scarce financial resources in maintaining a structure that does not provide solutions to grow our economies, and to effect social justice at the workplace.

We must not lose sight of the primary reason why the ministries of labour and employment exist.

Our role is to create decent working conditions and an improved quality of life of workers, by ensuring compliance with applicable rules and regulations, as well as enhancing employability through employment services and skills development on a sustainable basis.

As a result, the course delivery by ARLAC should be in line with these economic objectives. Some of the proposals reached in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, late last year point to the need of clear categorisation of workers and the matching training requirements.

New employees, for example, need foundation training that will equip them with basic skills and knowledge that are necessary for them to understand elementary aspects of labour market governance. On the other hand, seasoned officials need expert knowledge in special areas of regulation from inspections to public employment services.

Such training, however, should not take place in a vacuum. Our labour markets are affected by the ever-changing environment. At this point we know for a fact that the continent is experiencing economic changes with regards to the integration of labour markets through the all-encompassing trade agreement.

We also know for certain that the continent wants to achieve sustainable economic growth to address issues of poverty, unemployment and other social ills.

Vulnerable groups such as women, youth, persons with disabilities, farm workers and other workers in unconventional employment would like to see their fortunes improve.

In this regard, the continent’s population is made up of young people compared to other regions of the world who have ageing populations. This so-called youth dividend can either make or break our countries, and of course our continent, if it is not harnessed in such a manner that more and more young people get absorbed in employment ranks as a matter of priority.

The goals of employment creation and enterprise development should always be borne in our minds as we attempt to re-engineer ARLAC. The destination should, therefore, be more than just ensuring comfort for the people employed in Harare, but the creating of benefits for our respective labour markets.

In as much as we want to create decent working conditions and wanting to make ARLAC to function optimally, it would be a mistake to relegate the urgent needs of our countries; hence our commitment to see ARLAC work as not an act of beautifying the landscape of the Zimbabwean capital.

Programme Director,

Our desire to have a functional ARLAC is driven by selfish interests and desire to solve long-standing, niggling problems in our countries as far as jobs and employment are concerned.

The proposed pay structure for officials should be justifiable when put against national priorities in our countries. This can be solely done through evidence-based results that the work of ARLAC contributes to improving lives of our citizens. ARLAC should clearly distinguish itself from traditional institutions in terms of its offering and value proposition.

The ARLAC financial report indicates an institution that operates on a shoe-string budget, where expenditure exceeds income, leading to a call for an increase in contributions by the member states.

There are a number of proposals put forward using the gross national income of countries. The request is that these proposals should not lead to absurdities but we should thrive to establish a formula that is fair and acceptable to all member countries.

In this instance, various variables should be taken into account, such as population size, the size of the national economy and so on. In this way, it is hoped that the persistent problem of outstanding membership fees will not be exacerbated, for we shall have designed a payment formula that will encourage member states to fulfill their obligations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to turn ARLAC around. We need to ensure that the training programmes support the Decent Work Agenda, and that it will strengthen the capacity of Member States ‘to better govern labour markets through the design of effective labour administration and labour inspection systems’, as stated in the ARLAC Training Policy.

ARLAC should be encouraged to deepen strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations on the continent and beyond to ensure that the quality of the training improves. Partnering with others will assist to provide relief to a strained budget.

ARLAC has an opportunity to move with times and learn new models of delivering training, and, hopefully, to take advantage of these strategic partnerships by gaining access to their resources and infrastructure, such as libraries and online materials for the benefit of trainees.


Dear distinguished delegates,

At both political and multilateral levels, one question often comes to mind: How come ARLAC and its sister organisations in the Maghreb and Francophone Africa are not properly integrated to regional political structures such as the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community?

In Southern Africa, for example, we have a very dynamic and vibrant structure where matters of employment and labour are discussed each year. The Ministerial meeting will take place in Namibia next week to deliberate on more or less the same issues that will be covered by this collective throughout this week.

If there is a serious need to put a spanner in the works, we must not be afraid to do so. With Africa serious about its political and economic integration, how is it possible that we still have organisations that are based on the divisive linguistic fault-lines? ARLAC is for Anglophone countries while its sister organisations CRADAT and ACLAE are French and Arabic speaking African countries, respectively.

We have to do an introspection about these identities in light of what were are trying to forge as an African people. The different regions in the continent are mixed, that is, they have more than one language, yet share common concerns and interests.

Senegal and Ghana, as well as Nigeria and Cameroon, exist on the either side of the language divide. The same applies to South Africa, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, practical evidence suggests that they have to work together irrespective of historical catastrophes such as who colonised them.

They also have an urgent need to focus on issues that unify them rather than those that divide them.

The re-engineering process for ARLAC should, therefore, take into account that leaving out non-English speakers, say in the SADC region, in their fold does not help anyone, but merely aggravates the problems that our overlapping labour markets are confronted with on a daily basis.

The emphasis on language as far as ARLAC, CRADAT and ACLAE are concerned works against our long-term political goals and integration. The solution lies in aligning these organisations with existing political regional structures, from SADC to Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and EAC to ECOWAS.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another matter that we have to highlight is that we can take a leaf from the institutional arrangement that exists between the International Training Centre in Turin, Italy, and the ILO. Not only is the Centre a training arm of the ILO in support of Decent Work and sustainable development, but it is also part of the United Nations System.

The institutional placement of ARLAC and sister organisations is a cause for concern in that they are not linked to regional bodies and or the ILO Centre in northern Italy. Unfortunately, this leads to an impression that there is a duplication of structures that have the same membership and also exactly the same agenda, of which labour administration features quite prominently.

Whether this fragmentation is by design or unplanned, it needs to be corrected. We, therefore, need to streamline our institutions and efforts to optimise on our efforts and to use our ever-shrinking resource base much more wisely.

The task I put before you is exploring whether ARLAC, CRADAT and ACLAE cannot be training arms of respective regional formations as well as to making them tripartite in line with the nature of the issues they deal with.

This will, however, require reformulation of their constitutions and redefining their memberships to be in line with those of SADC, EAC, ECOWAS and the Arab Maghreb Union. We must be mindful though that the AU only recognises eight regional organisations. This implies that ARLAC adds to more than a dozen inter-governmental organizations spread across the continent.

The multiplicity of organisations with more than one membership per country have serious drawbacks at a practical level. There is a view that overlapping memberships, mandates, objectives, protocols and functions create unhealthy multiplication and duplication of efforts and misuse of the continents’ scarce resources.

There are compelling reasons why these many institutions have to be rationalized to support the pillars of continental integration.

At operational level, we should be able to synchronise ARLAC activities to feed, for example, to the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda, i.e. employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue. What we discuss at these ARLAC meetings should thus be in line with what is topical at ILO level.

Our deliberations should help contribute to the advancement of the Decent Work Agenda. In two days’ time, on Thursday 28 February 2019, there will be a ministerial high level symposium on ‘Violence and Harassment of Women and Men at Work’ which will be chaired by the Honourable Minister Mildred Oliphant.

This topic seeks to contribute to the ILO centenary presently running under the theme ‘Advancing Social Justice, Promoting Decent Work’. But the institutional displacement of ARLAC means that whatever positive outcomes emanating from the Thursday discussions will disappear here in Durban, and will not be taken forward since this body is neither connected to SADC nor ILO framework.

Dear distinguished delegates,

The observations raised in this address are not meant to talk down the relevance of ARLAC and or to diminish its status as one of the important multi-state labour institutions on the continent.

The point is the organisation’s re-engineering would be incomplete without its correct placement and alignment within the political agenda of our continent and its regions. ARLAC must complement regional integration efforts and truly support our nations to develop ever-lasting and resilient labour administration systems.

It is our sincere hope that this Meeting of Senior Officials will provide direction and advice to Ministers by highlighting the political importance of having an ARLAC that will deepen our political and economic integration aspirations. As such, the issues of integration and cooperation with political structures to foster this integration will hopefully shape our discussions this week.

It is our sincere wish to see more concrete agreements coming out of this Meeting of Senior Officials. Otherwise ARLAC will be seen as a waste of resources, a talk-shop of no-use, that delivers no tangible benefits to our citizens.

As we mark yet another milestone, the forty-five years of existence of ARLAC this week, we hope that as the Member States we can take stock and review progress.

I, therefore, implore the delegates present here to ensure that the work programme to be presented to the Ministers will show not only decisiveness but also our readiness through ARLAC to deliver concrete results.

To conclude, I wish you fruitful and progressive discussions and hope that this this Meeting of Senior Officials will generate excellent recommendations for consideration by the Ministers.

Please enjoy your stay in our beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal, the famous Kingdom of the Zulu!

I thank you.