Shooting of Zimbabwean miners exposes ‘systemic’ abuse by Chinese employers – Watchdog


The shooting of two Zimbabwean workers by a Chinese mining boss shows the “systematic and widespread” abuse that locals face in Chinese mining operations, says the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Society (ZELA).

The Zimbabwe police said Zhang Xuen shot an employee five times and wounded another at the mine he runs in Gweru province, in central Zimbabwe, during a row with workers over outstanding pay.

Zhang has been charged with attempted murder but did not enter a plea because there was no approved interpreter in court. He will remain in custody until at least July 07, the report said.

The shooting happened on Sunday morning, when miner Kenneth Tachiona confronted Zhang after he allegedly refused to pay his wages in US dollars, as agreed, according to the affidavit.

A video that many alleged to be of the incident has circulated on social media in Zimbabwe, provoking public anger and calls from a local watchdog for a re-evaluation of Chinese mining operations in the country.

The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe described the shooting as an isolated incident and said it was in support of an open and transparent probe by local authorities.

“Any possible illegal acts and persons who violate the law should not be shielded. China and Zimbabwe have a long-standing friendship and cooperation. We call upon all relevant sides to safeguard it jealousy and carefully,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement on Twitter.

China is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign investor with significant interests in the country’s extractive sector.

Last year, Chinese firm Tsignchan signed a US$2 billion deal with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines to extract chrome, iron ore, nickel and coal, vital resources for China.

At least 10,000 Chinese people are in Zimbabwe, and many are working on in the country’s mining, telecoms, and construction sectors on a contractual basis, according to a 2016 Brookings Institution report.

But their presence in the country has sometimes been controversial.

Both Chinese-run mines in the country and state mining operations have been dogged with allegations of human rights violations and poor safety measures for staff.

In February, a group of local miners in Matabeleland South province petitioned a labour court to protest their firing by their Chinese employer.

Last April, workers at another Chinese mining operation in the province complained of being underpaid and working without protective clothing.

Several cases of Chinese miners refusing to pay salaries or provide their workers with protective clothing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are currently being investigated by ZELA, according to its deputy director Shamiso Mutisi

“It has become a pattern and a system. We have cases where miners are abused, beaten, and discriminated against by Chinese miners,” Mutisi said.

In a statement on Wednesday, ZELA said locals in some Chinese-owned mines often operate “dangerous, harsh, and life-threatening” conditions, while being paid poorly for their time.

Sunday’s shooting is another reason for the government to rethink its political and economic engagements with China, the group said.

“In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labour, and human rights standards,” the statement said. (Source: CNN)