Zambia : China; playing the plantation Lord game in Zambia


Well-Known Member
Oct 4, 2009
owner of various real estate concerns
November 20, 2010
Zambia Uneasily Balances Chinese Investment and Workers’ Resentment
NKANDABBWE, Zambia — Hundreds of angry coal miners pushed toward the locked gate at Shaft 3, shouting and cursing as they neared the mine’s Chinese managers, who understood neither the English nor the Tonga words of the mob. As the workers butted up against the fence, the bosses grew more fearful and finally two fired their shotguns.

The Zambian miners scrambled in terror. Bodies pivoted, jounced and stumbled. Boston Munakazela did not know he was hit until he suddenly fell over and saw the blood on his chest and arms. Vincent Chenjele was knocked off his bicycle with a hole ripped in his belly. Wisborn Simutombo, bleeding from his arms, legs and stomach, pleaded with friends to pull him to safety across the coal-dusted road.

“We weren’t going to hurt them, but maybe the Chinese didn’t understand that,” Mr. Simutombo, 25, said recently, displaying scars left by the spray of shotgun pellets. “They were quick to shoot us though, and in Zambia the Chinese can get away with anything.”

As in many other African nations, the Chinese are an enormous economic presence in this impoverished but mineral-rich country, and their treatment of local workers has become an explosive political issue, presenting an awkward balancing act for governments desperate for foreign investment. “We’re an economy in transition, and we can’t afford to lose the cow that gives us milk today,” said Labor Minister Austin Liato.

Chinese investment here amounted to $1.2 billion in just the past year, according to the government. Nearly two-thirds of new construction involves Chinese-run companies, said Li Qiangmin, the Chinese ambassador in Lusaka, the capital. In this nation of 12 million where a small minority of workers, perhaps one in 10, have salaried employment, the 25,000 jobs provided by Chinese-backed businesses and projects are badly needed.

But many Zambians complain that these powerful foreigners are permitted to play by their own rules, plundering the country more than developing it and abusing workers as they go. The wounding of 13 miners in a labor dispute at the Collum mine last month once again brought these raw feelings to the surface, revealing conditions at a coal mine where men walk more than 1,000 steps into the earth to slosh through dark and frequently unsafe tunnels. They are paid about $4 a day and say they are expected to work every day of the year.

“We do not have support timbers everywhere they need to be, and we have no masks to protect us from the coal dust,” said Boston Sikalamba, 21, who was buried for several minutes by a cave-in this month. “After the dynamite is set, there’s nothing to do about the dust but breathe it, and if you are slow at your work, the Chinese beat you.” The Collum mine has been owned for the past nine years by a Chinese businessman, Xu Jianxue. His four younger brothers operate the mine’s four shafts, employing 855 workers, including 62 Chinese supervisors.

Shaft 3, near the site of the shooting, is a steep, narrow pit, barely wide enough for both a man and the loaded coal bins that move on a single thin track to the top. The only light along the way comes from the miner’s headlamp. Water trickles from the ceiling. There are no toilets below, and the miners say they use abandoned tunnels when they have the need.

Most of the Chinese know only a few words of English and Tonga, languages commonly spoken in this part of the country. On occasion, they tell the miners, “Tomorrow, job takwi,” using the Tonga word for “nothing,” meaning there will be no work. Such unexpected days off were at the root of the dispute.

Year after year, two unions have signed deals with Collum Coal, precisely spelling out benefits like a Christmas bonus and transportation allowances.

But these pacts are routinely ignored by the company, the unions say, and while workers bemoan the unremitting work schedule, their biggest gripe is getting docked for days when broken machinery or an oversupply of coal on the market leaves them idle.

Xu Jianrui, the brother who operates Shaft 3, denied in a phone interview that the miners were overworked or mistreated. “They have four or five days off every month because they need to go to church,” he said, speaking in Chinese. “You know, they are kind of lazy. They work like 10 to 15 days but want a full month’s salary.”

Since the shooting, Zambia’s labor commissioner, Noah Siasimuna, has been drawn into the dispute. Atop his desk is a thick folder about Collum Coal, but most of the paperwork is new. No signed labor agreement with the company was ever filed with his office as required by law, he said. Nor did the unions formally report any noncompliance.

Mr. Siasimuna, like the labor minister, Mr. Liato, cautioned against any conclusion that impugned Chinese businesses as worse than others. “We have bad employers that come from everywhere, including Zambia,” Mr. Liato said.

The unions, however, say Chinese owners are indeed their biggest headache. And, contradicting the government, the president of the Gemstone and Allied Workers Union of Zambia, Sifuniso Nyumbu, was able to produce contracts with Collum that had the signed and stamped approval of the commissioner’s office as well as letters from the Labor Ministry acknowledging union complaints about the company.

“The Chinese promise to implement a deal, then claim they forgot or there was an oversight,” Mr. Nyumbu said. “The union doesn’t have enough money to keep sending people down to Collum Coal, and when our members there speak up, they get fired.”

The union’s leaders were frustrated by their own feebleness. Early last month, Mr. Nyumbu implored workers to refuse their monthly wages if the payment was docked for work days missed. Solidarity was essential to the protest, and on Oct. 15, when miners at Shaft 2 heard that men at Shaft 3 were accepting reduced pay, they boldly marched up the road, calling for the others to follow the union’s instructions.

They were met at the gate to Shaft 3 by the Chinese supervisors. The Xu family is from Leping in Jiangxi Province, and most of the men they recruit as managers are former miners from the same place, said Xu Jianrui. They live in a modest compound, electric fans chasing the heat from their small rooms. On a recent morning, wet clothes hung on a long wire line outdoors. The carcass of a skinned pig dangled beside them.

The two supervisors who used their shotguns, Xiao Lishan and Wu Jiuhua, refused to be interviewed. But Mr. Xu, who was not present at the confrontation, said one of the men aimed into the air and the other fired into the ground, causing dozens of pellets to ricochet. He said the managers feared for their lives when the mob began heaving stones.

“We had four people injured in the head and thigh,” he said.

A dozen miners, questioned separately, denied anything was thrown. Whatever happened, it was portrayed in much of the local press as an outrage, reminding people of a 2005 tragedy when 46 Zambians died in an accident at a Chinese-owned explosives factory.

Michael Sata, an opposition leader who has long used anti-Chinese sentiment for political combustion, denounced the spilling of “innocent blood” by “merciless so-called investors.” But President Rupiah Banda said singling out the Chinese was unfair. One local newspaper quoted him as saying, “Everyday, people are shot by Zambians, are shot by white people, are shot by the Americans, they are shot by everybody.”

The two supervisors were arrested and charged with attempted murder, though they are now free on bail. Critics of the Banda government expect the case to be whitewashed.

“The Chinese finance the ruling party, so the government is their captive,” said Lee Habasonda, the director of a prominent pro-democracy group.

This is a common assumption of civic crusaders, though one offered without proof. Mr. Li, the Chinese ambassador, denied any interference in Zambian politics. “It is against our principles,” he said over tea at the embassy.


Well-Known Member
Oct 4, 2009
owner of various real estate concerns
Not Just in Zambia.....

Zimbabwean workers protest over treatment by Chinese companies
19 November, 2010 09:28:00

Daniel Bardsley, Foreign Correspondent

BEIJING - China's engagement in Africa has come under the spotlight amid claims from Zimbabwean union officials that Chinese companies are engaged in the "gross violation" of labour rules.

Chinese firms are said to have underpaid workers, forced them to work overtime for free, and not provided adequate safety clothing, according to the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers' Union.

The complaints were made to the Zimbabwean newspaper Newsday.

"We would like to warn the Chinese contractors who are operating in Zimbabwe that if they do not follow the laid-down laws, the union is going to take strong action against them," the secretary general of the union, Muchapiwa Mazarura, told Newsday.

He said members had complained of the "gross violation of labour laws", and called on Zimbabwean government ministries to make greater efforts to ensure Chinese companies complied with the law.

"When the Chinese donate funds for projects and development to the government, they should be reminded that our government does not donate human resources in return," Mr Mazarura said.

The comments have gained widespread media attention in China, and labour rights organisations said they had heard similar complaints.

They represent the latest controversy centred on China's extensive dealings in Africa, which have polarised opinion among observers as bilateral trade has grown to exceed US$100 billion (Dh367bn) a year.

Some see China's focus on building infrastructure as speeding development in a way aid money has failed to, while others have voiced fears China is exporting its own poor environmental and labour standards to Africa.

While as many as 750,000 Chinese nationals are thought to have moved to Africa, Deborah Brautigam, an academic and author of The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, said during a visit to Beijing this year that Chinese companies operating in the continent employed about 80 per cent African staff. She said "often standards are not good" for such employees.

According to Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for the Hong Kong-based pressure group China Labour Bulletin, Chinese companies were "exporting their domestic management style" to Africa.
"We have seen several cases in Africa with local workers being treated very badly by Chinese companies, expecting the local workers to work in the same conditions as the same standards they would expect workers in China to work in. These conditions are pretty bad," he said.

Tensions between Chinese managers and African workers often develop, Mr Crothall said, as a result of "culture clashes". While in Chinese factories, staff are commonly expected to work long hours and at high speed, such expectations create "resentment" when applied in Africa. He called on Chinese companies in Africa to pay workers "decent" wages and not to flout the local laws.

Chinese companies operating in Africa have denied they are mistreating workers, in comments made to media in China.

Staff were provided with protective clothing and paid according to rules set out by the local trade union, Ge Yizhong, the deputy general manager of Zim Nantong Construction, said of his company's operations in Zimbabwe.

"There is no ill treatment of workers at my company," he told the Global Times newspaper. "We have adjusted working hours to meet workers' demands. We have raised their pay twice since last year to counter the devaluation of the local currency."

As well as disputes over labour standards, China's ties with Africa have sparked concerns that efforts to promote human rights and good governance are being undermined, because development assistance does not depend on improvements in these areas. - The National


Well-Known Member
Oct 4, 2009
owner of various real estate concerns
Chinese accused of worker abuse
2010-10-30 19:06

Maputo – Mozambique has revoked the visas of three Chinese men accused of beating construction workers with a hammer and scalding them with boiling oil, private newspaper O Pais reported on Friday.

"These Chinese are accused of inhumane acts against local employees of Nantong construction company," the Ministry of Labour said in a statement, cited by the paper.

One of the accused, Lin Cheng, allegedly "flung boiling cooking oil on Mozambican workers," it said.

Another, Cai Bingjun, "attacked his associates in several ways, using a hammer, a wooden plank and other work tools," the ministry said.

The third, Wei Hongfeng, is accused of "having fired a Mozambican for discussing mistakes on his paycheque".

Violating workplace codes

The government also criticised Nantong Construction for violating multiple workplace codes, citing a lack of security regulations and contracts for workers.

The country has not yet pursued legal action against the three Chinese beyond the cancellation of their work visas.

Earlier this month, two Chinese mine managers in neighbouring Zambia were accused of shooting 12 local workers.

In 2009, China invested $9.3bn across Africa in pursuit of natural resources needed to support its rapidly growing economy.

Chinese builder Anhui Foreign Construction Company Co is the primary contractor for the 2011 All-Africa Games to be held in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.

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