Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has in a statement demanded that the Zimbabwean government should reconsider the country’s relationship with China following the surge in abuse of local workers by their Chinese employers, especially those who work in Chinese mining companies.
The organization released this statement after a 41year old Chinese national, Zhang Xuelin shot two Zimbabwean local workers Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona following a dispute which erupted at the mine after the workers demand for their unpaid wages and good working conditions.
“The mine owner is said to have shot the two at point blank range after they demanded their outstanding wages. Both workers sustained injuries, with one shot on the chin while the other who was shot in the leg and thigh remains in hospital” the statement said.
The perpetrator, who owns Reden Mine located at south of Gweru has since been arrested and charged with attempted murder but ZELA suggested that, the government must take further action. “The shooting incident at Reden Mine and many other incidences of mine worker abuse, discrimination and ill-treatment may also be an indication of the need for Zimbabwe to rethink and re-imagine its political and economic engagements with the Chinese” ZELA wrote.
The association has indicated that the occurrence is just one of the numerous abuses suffered by Africans in the hands of Chinese employers. The statement added that, “this incident is part of a systematic and widespread pattern of labor rights violations by Chinese companies and investors in the extractive sector”
The organization also revealed that the issue of labor abuse by Chinese miners is not only limited to Zimbabwe. It spreads across the entire African continent. “In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labour and human rights standards. Poor working conditions at Chinese companies are an old problem that is increasing”. The group revealed.
According to ZELA, the confidence with which Chinese through diplomacy, abuses Zimbabwean locals could be attributed to the foreign aid they receive from China. “The Chinese seem to be taking advantage of the political and economic ties between Zimbabwe and China and Zimbabwe’s desperation for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to commit criminal acts, disregard labor laws, partake in illegal mining activities, engage in leakages of minerals and illegal trade of minerals and other natural resources” the statement suggested.
The association has however proposed certain drastic reforms to help put a stop to the abuse of the locals by Chinese employers, especially those who work in the mines. ZELA recommended that, due process should be followed in dealing with the attempted murder case against the Chinese mine owner without fear or favour, Chinese mining and natural resource extraction companies and operations should be closely monitored for compliance with labor, environment, worker safety and health laws and standards. Chinese mining companies and other investors should be required by law to adopt and apply business and human rights and responsible sourcing standards in the mining sector, the Government of Zimbabwe through the Human Rights Commission should consider assessing working conditions under Chinese owned enterprises in Zimbabwe among many others.