Zimbabwe probes worker abuse by Chinese firms

May 1, 2012, 4:45 PM

Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe’s government is investigating persistent reports of rampant abuse of workers by Chinese employers, the labor minister said Tuesday.

A team of investigators has already started visiting Chinese construction and mining companies to compile details of alleged abuses, Paurina Mupariwa said during the country’s Workers’ Day celebrations in the capital, Harare.

Labor officials say workers have complained of physical abuse by Chinese managers, earnings below the legal minimum, extended working hours and negligence over health and safety conditions.

Years of political and economic turmoil have seen an influx of Chinese businesses in a “Look East” policy announced by President Robert Mugabe. The creation of the policy is meant to replace Western investors scared off by human rights violations and a black empowerment program that envisions seizure of 51 percent of foreign-owned firms, excluding Chinese.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a former labor leader, said Tuesday that workers now suffering record unemployment pinned their hopes on democratic reforms for future economic growth.

Tsvangirai, in a shaky coalition government formed with Mugabe after violent-ridden and inconclusive elections in 2008, said the power-sharing deal has made it difficult to pursue any programs to improve workers’ conditions.

“We have a unique coalition of opposing ideologies…this has resulted in the government dismally failing in its major responsibility of creating jobs…and setting the tone and foundation for economic progress and development,” he said.

He did not refer directly to complaints against Chinese firms.

But Lovemore Matombo, a veteran labor union official, at another Workers’ Day gathering in Harare, said the government has turned a blind eye to workers’ abuse by the Chinese and have let them “run the economy,” without regard to labor laws.

“The Chinese in this country are treated more like a scared cow by government. They don’t want to observe our labor laws. Every investor should abide by the country’s laws,” he said.

Matombo said his organization has received complaints that the Chinese companies in Zimbabwe, apart from giving workers low pay, can go up to two months without paying any wages to their workers.

“Where they (Chinese) are supposed to give workers $400, they give them $80 and can take one or two months to do that. Workers are slapped and kicked,” he said. “They don’t observe safety requirements and provide no protective clothing in the mines.”

Labor leaders have also reported Chinese managers using pejorative language against black Zimbabweans and locking them up in storerooms for alleged indiscipline.

Workers who recently protested working conditions at a military college being built by China outside Harare said their peaceful demonstration was violently broken up by Zimbabwean soldiers.

No response was immediately available from the Chinese embassy officials in Harare.

In the past, Chinese officials have avoided dealing with complaints against their nationals in Zimbabwe, stressing instead their close and cordial ties with Mugabe’s party.

Mupariwa, the labor minister, said she expected the investigations to be completed this week. She will present the findings to the ministerial cabinet.

“We will not allow this in our country. We won’t let it happen to our workers,” she said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
3 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
3 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago
This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
4 months ago
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Zimbabwe probes worker abuse by Chinese firms