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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.