By William Milasi
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has called on government to critically assess working conditions of locals under Chinese employment.
Zela in a statement following the shooting of two workers in Gweru by their Chinese boss following an altercation over salaries Zela said its high time government must protect workers who are currently being employed by Chinese.
“The government of Zimbabwe through the Human Right Commission should consider assessing working conditions under Chinese owned enterprises in Zimbabwe,” Zela said in a statement.
The environmental advocates further added that the Chinese are seen to be taking advantage of the political and economic ties between Zimbabwe and China with Zimbabwe’s desperation for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to commit criminal acts, disregard labour laws, partake in illegal mining activities, engage in leakages of minerals and alleged trade of minerals and other natural resources.
“The shooting incident at Reden Mine and many other incidences of mine worker abuse, discrimination and ill treatment may also be an indication for the need of Zimbabwe to rethink and reimagine its political and economic engagements with the Chinese,” Zela said.
Zela further noted that the Gweru shooting incident is part of a systematic and widespread pattern of labour rights violations by Chinese companies and investors in the extractive sector.
“In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labour and human rights standards. Mine workers in Chinese mines often work in dangerous, harsh and life threatening environment,” Zela said.
Mine workers under the Chinese employment despite working hard are in most cases under paid.
A 2012 study by South Africa Resource Watch which investigated Chinese labour practices in Zimbabwe, Zambia and the DRC revealed that the Chinese have engaged in widespread labour abuses and subjected local employees in the mining industry to harsh and unfair working conditions.
The report revealed that most Chinese mining firms exceeded statutory working hours of 8 hours a day requiring employees to work 12 and 18 hours and that at the Makwiro Platinum Concession workers do not receive overtime for 12 hours at the job.
“Low and measly wages, poor remuneration policies, discrimination, victimisation, external abuse, unfair dismissals and general hostility towards trade unionism among a litany of other poor working conditions punctuate most Chinese owned businesses,” Zela said.
Zela further noted that most Chinese companies have appalling housing and sanitation facilities.
The statement further added that from a health perspective workers conditions are appalling. “From an environmental perspective many Chinese companies start operations without conducting Environmental Impact Assessment to identify and addresss social impacts of operations on communities and workers as required by law,” Zela said