Zambian Miners Kill Chinese Supervisors Over Slave Wage Dispute

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Zambian mine photo

Miners accuse the Chinese firms of routine abuses

Operations at the Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe, Zambia  have ground to a halt following weekend demonstrations by Zambian miners that left one Chinese dead while another is battling for his life.

Police have since picked up two miners in connection with the killing of 50-year-old Wu Shengzai.

The other Chinese national injured during the riots, is Huang Jiawou while few Zambian miners sustained minor bruises.

Police led by Southern Province deputy police chief Fred Mtondo planned a night-time raid of nearby houses to fish out suspects among miners in an effort to find possible leads to the murder.

The miners were protesting alleged delays by management to implement the revised minimum wage.

Mr Wu died on the spot after being hit with a trolley by the rioting miners as he sought refuge in the underground tunnel at the mine.

Mr Mtondo confirmed police presence at the mine since the Saturday rioting and that his team was determined to find the law-breakers.

“We are in Sinazeze right now to investigate the murder of the Chinese national. We are taking this matter seriously, we will carry out a raid to catch the miners involved and the investigations are in that direction.

“The miners were in a mob when the Chinese national was killed but in any mob, there must be ring-leaders and these are the ones we want to find. We are just waiting for nightfall to start the search,” Mr Mtondo said.

Chief Government Spokesperson, Kennedy Sakeni said the law must take its course on the matter.

Mr Sakeni, who is Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, said in a separate interview that violence should not be allowed to prevail in any circumstance especially on issues that could be resolved through dialogue such as salaries.

“It is sad that a life was lost. There was no need for the miners to go to such extremes as to shed blood on a fellow worker over an issue which was clear and open to dialogue,” he said.

Mr Sakeni called on the Ministry of Labour and law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate the murder and bring the culprits to face justice.

His Mines counterpart Yamfwa Mukanga condemned the riotous behaviour and urged police authorities to arrest anyone involved in the fracas.

Mr Mukanga said workers should not take the law in their own hands by forcing employers to introduce the minimum wage.

Mr Mukanga said the mining sector helped reflect Zambia as an investment destination and that such confusion by miners should not be allowed at all cost.

“As Mines minister I am not happy at all. Causing death over the issue of minimum wage is unacceptable, the PF Government will not allow such lawlessness to prevail, we have laws and the issue of minimum wage should not be used to cause violence.

“I urge all workers to remain calm and not take the law into their own hands. Workers should be patient and wait until the wages are effected, we should not rush. Zambia has a good image in the mining sector, and if such occurrences are heard even outside, it dents our image,” Mr Mukanga said.

Sinazongwe District Commissioner, Dodo Sindaza said police had managed to quell the riots and the situation was calm as by yesterday.

“The situation is calm now but the mine has temporarily suspended its operations due to the riots,” he said.

Mr Sindaza said the rioting started when the irate miners realised that management had not implemented the new minimum wage for their July month-end salaries.

“What happened was that management and workers had earlier agreed that the new minimum wages would reflect in the August 2012 salaries because July salaries were already prepared using the old minimum wage.

“But when they received their July salaries, they discovered that the new minimum wages was not reflecting and this led to the rioting,” he said.

Mr Sindaza said the angry mob, most Zambian miners, first went to the police and later went to the mining site where they pounced on Chinese miners who were found working. There have been numerous conflicts between Zambian miners and Chinese mine owners, recently a Chinese mining manager shot and kiled two Zambian miners during a demonstration over slave like wages.