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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs