Negligence and ignorance of Zambian labor laws by Chinese mining firms had pricked the temper of Zambian president Michael Sata, in spite admitting Chinese investments are helping his country move towards economic growth and stability.
The two-week old new political leader of Zamibia acknowledged the influence of China's investment, primarily in Zamibia's fiscal growth, but stressed Chinese companies must recognize and respect the country's labor laws in the face of escalating protests held by the locals against their Chinese employers on issues of low wages, working long hours and no days off and, poor safety precautionary measures, among others.
Chinese companies are known for doing away mandated labor laws. Workers of Chinese companies receive measly salaries and are not allowed to unionize or form labor unions. Chinese companies most specially detest strikes.
A former top opposition leader who despised the presence of Chinese influence in his country, Mr. Sata is expected to tighten the state's control on the copper mining industry, which accounts for more than 75 percent of Zamibia's foreign revenue earnings. Mr. Sata had earlier said during election campaign that he will increase Zambia's mining taxes as a means to control their mineral exports.
Although locals have pressed stricter labor regulations related to foreign investment, Zambians have yet to see if Mr. Sata would indeed call for the creation and eventually pass a legislation limiting Chinese entry and dominance in the African country.
Chinese companies have become key players driving Zambia's economy, with total investments by end of 2010 topping $2 billion, according to data from the Chinese embassy. China's trade investment in Zambia grew to $1.45 billion in 2009 from $100 million in 2000. Some 20,000 local jobs ranging from mining to manufacturing to telecommunications have been created in Zamibia.
Last year, Chinese executives of Collum Coal Mine, armed with pellet guns, shot and injured at least 12 workers who protested over low wages. In 2005, Chinese-run Chambishi Copper Smelter also opened fire on complaining laborers, injuring at least five.
It is a love-hate relationship between China and Zamibia. In as much as locals despite the Chinese work habits and mentality, Zamibians also readily admit the influx of Chinese investment is good for their country and will definitely do good for the lives of the more than 60 percent who live below the poverty line.
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