African-Chinese labor relations turn increasingly icy

Chinese and Tanzanian workers

Africa Review, 20 October 2010

Janet Otieno, Johnstone Ole Turana and Saudah Mayanja, Nairobi

Africa has been witnessing an influx of Chinese investors and labourers

Beijing has even gone an extra mile by opting for the softer approach of “not interfering in the continent’s political affairs” to justify its economic pursuits in Africa. But the Chinese stand accused of not being any better than Africa’s former colonial masters when it comes to their labour practices.

Late last week, Chinese mine managers shot and wounded 11 of their employees in southern Zambia over a pay dispute, sparking a countrywide outrage in the southern African nation.

And this is not just the first incident in the country. A few months ago, local workers at a Chinese-owned copper mine went on strike demanding better working conditions. The strike turned into a riot with reports of a Chinese manager firing at the crowd and injuring people.

Complaints raised

More episodes on the continent capture the increasingly icy Afro-Chinese labour relations.

A year ago in Mozambique, an argument broke out between a provincial governor, Mr Mauricio Vieira and the China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO). After winning a contract to build a new water supply system to service the capital Maputo and other surrounding towns, the firm had barely began work than complaints from local workers about poor treatment at the hands of the Chinese bosses surfaced. Continue reading