News / Africa

Chinese Managers at Zambia Mine Go on Trial

Zambian President Rupiah Banda, left, toasts with Chinese President Hu Jintao after a signing ceremony for a wide range of mining, trade and cultural agreements, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Feb. 25, 2010 (file photo)
Zambian President Rupiah Banda, left, toasts with Chinese President Hu Jintao after a signing ceremony for a wide range of mining, trade and cultural agreements, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Feb. 25, 2010 (file photo)

Two Chinese managers at a mine in Zambia are to go on trial December 2 on charges of shooting a dozen Zambian mine workers during a demonstration for better working conditions.

The incident has aggravated tensions with labor unions and ordinary Zambians, who believe China is taking advantage of a long-standing relationship with Zambia. The ties date as far back as 1964 when Zambia attained independence from Britain. Zambia was the first country in Africa to establish diplomatic relations with China at that time. Since then, Chinese investors have become increasingly prominent players in Zambia's key economic sectors.

Significant Chinese investment

Some notable Chinese investments in Zambia include the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, the Chambishi Multi Facility Economic Zone and the ongoing construction of a modern soccer stadium, among many others. According to the Zambia Development Agency, Chinese investment has exceeded $1 billion since December 2009 and has created close to 15,000 jobs.

The presence of the Chinese in Zambia's economy, though, has been criticized by trade unions, workers, merchants and opposition political parties. They claim Chinese employers abuse their labor laws, pay low wages and dump sub-standard products on the market.

Chinese employers criticized

The relationship between Zambian workers and Chinese managers has particularly soured since 2005 when 46 workers were killed at a Chinese owned explosive company.

Some workers at Chinese companies in Zambia's mining town of Chambishi complain that they work long hours and in hazardous conditions.

Jeff Chanda, who asked that his real name not be used, works as a front-loader operator at a Chinese owned mine in Chambishi. He said, "What these guys [Chinese] do, they come here, make a lot of money, get our copper and then go back to their country, invest in their country. But here in Zambia there is nothing. 'Cause [Because when] you look at this town, it is just too small. For them to make billions and billions, they are supposed to maintain the roads, build a hospital for us, but there is nothing [they are doing] for us."

Twenty-nine year-old Daniel Mwanza [not his real name], a plant attendant at the Chinese owned NFC Africa Mining agreed. He said many Zambians opt to work in Chinese companies because of limited employment opportunities elsewhere.

"Ah, what I can say is the Chinese, but we have nothing we can go… we are just working at NFC at the Chinese compound because if you stop maybe you can look for another job but you can't find it," said Mwanza.

Zambians claim abuse

The National Union of Miners and Allied Workers looks after the welfare of workers in the mining industry. The union said that when Chinese investors started coming to invest in Zambia, the labor movement explained what was required of the Chinese.

The president of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers, Mundia Sikufele, explains. "Just from the word go we had engaged them trying to work with us to see how they were going to apply themselves as regards the labor laws of the republic. They were very keen to adhere to the labor laws. Unfortunately, down the line, we discovered they had their own failures in the areas of safety in the mines, in the areas of remuneration for the workers. They happened to and they still happen to be the lowest payers."

The Zambia government has always maintained the Chinese conduct their business within the confines of Zambian investment and labor laws. Ministers and other government officials have stated on several occasions that China always stands by Zambia, even when the global economy is not doing well.

Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale said China was the only country that supported Zambia when it struggled to recover from the global economic crisis. He said some Chinese investors bought off some Australian and Canadian mines that had shut down as a result of the global economic crunch.

Zambia government defends China

Mwale is backed by Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Felix Mutati. "Of the total ore that is mined, only 15 percent is attributable to the Chinese mining activities," said Mutati. "So there is 85 percent which is done by Australians, Canadians, Indians and, indeed, other nationals. So to say it's a Chinese problem is wrong. The problem is a central problem."

President Rupiah Banda's administration has been criticized for allegedly siding with the Chinese. Mr. Banda and his administration, however, have maintained they do not take sides. This is evidenced in the remarks issued by Mr. Banda after 13 miners were shot and wounded at a Chinese owned coal mine last October.

"This business about Chinese... Chinese... is like you want to create phobia against people," said Banda. "That is obviously wrong! And as government we have taken a definite position, we have detained these people; we have had discussions with the Chinese ambassador. He, too, agrees with us and advised his people to follow the labor laws of the country. I want everybody to feel at home. If they make a mistake, face the wrath of the law."

China has overtaken the United States to become Zambia's largest export destination for raw materials, such as copper and iron ore.

The Asian nation has assembled an expansive investment portfolio in Zambia, which is expected to grow further with new discoveries of raw materials like uranium and gold.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid