Chinese investors are above the law – Sata
By Sandra Lombe in Livingstone and Patson Chilemba in Lusaka
Sun 17 Oct. 2010, 04:40 CAT [14395 Reads, 11 Comment(s)]
MINEWORKERS unions have strongly condemned the shooting of 11 Collum Coal Mine workers in Sinazongwe by Chinese managers after they allegedly protested over bad conditions of service. And chief Sinazongwe has warned that the shooting of the workers in his chiefdom marked the beginning of war between the Chinese and the local community.
Meanwhile, PF leader Michael Sata has charged that the shooting incident had revealed that Chinese investors were now above the law. Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) president Rayford Mbulu and National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW) national secretary Godwell Kaluba in separate interviews said it was unacceptable that investors could resort to shooting workers that were demanding what was rightfully due to them.
Two of the victims who were seriously wounded, Vincent Chengele 20, and Simon Simwete 28, have since been evacuated to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka. “I have dispatched the general treasurer and director of occupational safety and health. They should be in Sinazongwe tomorrow (yesterday) to get information on the ground. In a mine we can’t allow the carrying of firearms, we can’t allow the Chinese to do that.
The police should investigate and bring to book the suspects. We don’t care what investments people bring in the country. They should have sought dialogue with the workers or the unions. This is regrettable. What if a life was lost?” Mbulu asked. “We can’t allow people to do anything they want because they have brought ‘funny money’ in this country.
They can take it elsewhere. They must be arrested immediately.” Mbulu said MUZ was dealing with a similar case three years ago where Chinese investors used a firearm on miners in Chambeshi. He expressed regret that the case was up to now still being investigated.
“Workers should be protected in this country. We want to be informed that these suspects have been brought to book. They should leave our country,” Mbulu charged. He said there were many investors that wanted to invest in the country but Zambians should never allow such behaviour from foreign investors.
And Kaluba said there was growing concern over some Chinese investors who had exhibited violence towards staff at their mines. “There are some bad eggs. It’s very unfortunate, it’s extremely unacceptable. When people are crying for better conditions of service, it means there is a problem. It’s either management doesn’t want to listen, negotiate or dialogue. The shooting is extremely unacceptable.
In some cases we have had the Chinese slapping or beating up Zambian workers,” he said. “This is unacceptable, that is why some people say the Chinese are bad.” Southern Province commanding officer Lemmy Kajoba referred queries to public relations office, as the matter was now being handled by Police Service Headquarters.
Police spokesperson Ndandula Siamana said she was not yet at the office by press time. However, chief Sinazongwe has expressed anger and strongly condemned the Chinese managers for shooting at the workers. He said firearms should never have been used. “The issue was very simple, they (workers) were asking; ‘why no increment for two months’.
The other thing could have been communication was not good, the workers were using English and the Chinese were using Chinese. Two guns were used,” he narrated. “They shouldn’t have used the firearms. That’s very bad. We know they bring development but they shouldn’t shoot and use violence on the workers. This is the beginning of war between the locals and the Chinese.
We need to harmonize the situation if no death occurs. If there is a death, this war will never finish unless we step in as traditional leaders.” And narrating events that followed, chief Sinazongwe said the residents in the area were angered after they heard about the shooting and that the Chinese managers had run away. “The people went to hunt for them. Police came with tear gas and many people were tear gassed,” he said.
“The two that were seriously injured in the chest by this time have been taken to Lusaka (UTH). For the others (nine) here, we don’t know when the bullets (pellets) will be removed.” UTH public relations manager Pauline Mbangweta could not give details of the two referred to UTH.
“I am told they are at UTH.
I am here trying to check, I will give you details later,” Mbangweta said. Meanwhile, Sata has charged that the Chinese investors were now above the law. Commenting on the shooting of the eleven workers, Sata said it was only in Zambia where a foreigner could shoot so many Zambians and get away with it. “You see the Chinese are above the law.
It is only in Zambia where a foreigner can shoot so many Zambians and get away with it, and the police are only making slogans that ‘we are going to investigate’. They are behaving the same way they behaved on Chitambo MMD member of parliament Dr Solomon Musonda who shot a PF cadre” he said.
Sata said the Chinese were supposed to be in custody pending investigations because the evidence was already there that they shot people. “That’s the evidence. What more do they want? Why did they let people who were shot taken to the hospital and leave the Chinese? Are the Chinese above the law?” he asked. Sata said the slowness by the government and the police to react to the shooting showed that the country lacked leadership.
“If we had leadership, what is happening would not happen because I can’t see any investor in the People’s Republic of China shooting any Chinese and getting away with it,” Sata said. He said the opposition should put aside their differences and speak strongly in unison against the incident.
Sata said the PF would demonstrate to the country how patriotic they were as the party would stand by the victims of the shooting. “We know we can’t be protected by this government because it has been heavily corrupted by the Chinese for the 2011 elections and the current by-elections,” said Sata.
An eyewitness on Friday told The Post that the Chinese employers shot the victims in the neck, mouth, head, shoulder, chest and other parts of their bodies.
When contacted for a comment, mines minister Maxwell Mwale said he was awaiting a full report on the matter.