Zimbabwe says probing alleged worker abuse by ChineseBy KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Wednesday, May 2 2012 at 17:26
Zimbabwe is investigating reports that Chinese employers are abusing locals especially in the construction industry.
Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa said she had received a number of reports about the alleged abuse.
"I have received a lot of reports of Chinese employers who are abusing their workers and we as a ministry have set up an investigating team consisting of the National Social Security Authority and other construction companies,” she said.
Ms Mpariwa said after the investigations, meetings would be arranged with the Chinese to ensure that they comply with the country’s labour laws.
Last week, 30 workers who were dismissed by their Chinese employers building a defence college in Harare were prevented from protesting by armed soldiers.
The workers complained of being subjected to long hours and that their employment contracts had been terminated without notice.
Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party condemned what it said was increasing cases of abuse by the Chinese.
“It is disturbing to note that the ill-treatment of Zimbabweans by foreigners that has been going on for some time is on the rise,” MDC said in a statement.
“We call for an end to this.
“The reason why people of Zimbabwe went to war against the colonialists was in order to liberate ourselves and be treated with respect and dignity. As the MDC, we urge the inclusive government to stop this injustice.
“The action by some of these foreign investors is not expected and should never be tolerated in a civilised society like Zimbabwe.”
The party also criticised the use of soldiers to harass local workers.
“Zimbabweans are known for their hard work and should be rewarded accordingly,” MDC added.
“What is even more disturbing is the use of armed soldiers to thwart the unarmed demonstrators from carrying out their democratic right to have their grievances addressed.”
China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC) is building the $98 million defence college.
The company says it will complete the project “in a record time of one and half years” instead of the three set out in the agreement between Zimbabwe and China.
However, a British newspaper in January reported that the workers at the site complained of being overworked.
At the time, Mr James Zhang, a senior official from AFECC told state media that the report was meant to tarnish relations between Zimbabwe and China.
He claimed the least paid employee was getting $250 per month, a figure, which he said, compared favourably to wages paid by other Zimbabwean construction companies.
China has invested millions of dollars in Zimbabwe in the past few years and the projects include a diamond mine in the controversial Chiadzwa area.
President Robert Mugabe says he prefers Asian investors to Westerners whom he accuses of trying to re-colonise the country.
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