Chinese labour practices must be resisted

Zimbabweans should be very afraid of the increasing Chinese presence that our government is inviting upon us.

There are many reasons to be afraid and someone should start ringing alarm bells before things get out of hand and to avoid future generations having to take up arms to drive off this crop of Orientals whose roots are fast growing deep and wide on the nourishing Zimbabwean soil.

I have nothing against Chinese people as fellow humans, but where their presence threatens the existence or welfare of my grandchildren’s children, then I have a right to get worried.

Granted, the world has become a global village and there is no running away from doing business with other nations, North, South, East or West.

But no one wants a visitor who comes into one’s home to bring misery and inflict pain to the family. No government should be allowed to bring misery and pain upon its people for any reason.

Chinese people have made huge strides in their literal invasion of Zimbabwe since our government, desperate for rich friends, declared its unwavering support and camaraderie with these people from the East.

Ten years down the line, what is clearly evident is that Zimbabwe is slowly but surely getting her living standards eroded to levels acceptable as normal only in China.

There is no doubt life in Zimbabwe, even at the height of economic turmoil, has always been better than the Chinese living standards.

That is why when Zimbabweans employed by these Orientals in this country complain of poor working conditions, cruel treatment and general oppression, Chinese employers, in genuine belief what they are doing is normal practice, deny they are ill-treating anyone.

Professionals who had such benefits like company cars found themselves stripped of such entitlements because the new company owners from China found it unnecessary and extravagant that workers should be given anything more than a bicycle because back in China, vehicles are the preserve of company directors.

As a result, while low level workers complain of labour malpractices like being made to work long hours for nothing or outright abuse, including physical assault, their higher level counterparts had their salaries and perks frozen or reduced to fit the practice in China.

China’s engagement in Africa came to the spotlight several years ago amid claims from Zimbabwean union officials that Chinese companies were engaged in gross violation of labour laws.

The Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers’ Union charged Chinese firms were underpaying workers, forcing them to work overtime for free and failing to provide basic safety clothing.

The union made the same complaints again last year and warned they would take action after reports included incidents where kung fu-trained Chinese bosses kicked and punched defenceless workers at will.

That is the kind of treatment Zimbabweans should refuse to be subjected to by foreigners that are in this country on the benevolence of a government desperate for friends.

“When the Chinese donate funds for projects and development to the government, they should be reminded that our government does not donate human resources in return,” secretary-general of the union Nicholas Mazarura said.

As many as 750 000 Chinese nationals are thought to have moved to Africa in the past year.

The tragedy for African countries is that the Chinese companies have exported their domestic management style to Africa, expecting the local workers to work in the same conditions and the same standards they would expect workers in China to work in, conditions that are pretty bad.

Chinese factory staff are commonly expected to work long hours and at high speed, expectations that have created resentment in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.

In recent years, as China’s search for secure raw materials escalated, its foreign diplomacy relations strengthened and China has invested more in Zimbabwe than any other nation.

Back in July 2005, as Tony Blair turned the sanctions screws tighter on Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe flew to Beijing to meet with the top Chinese leadership and sought an emergency loan of $1 billion and asked for increased Chinese involvement in the economy.

In June 2006 the visit had begun to bear fruit. State-owned Zimbabwean businesses signed energy, mining and farming deals worth billions of dollars with Chinese companies.

The largest was with China Machine-Building International Corporation, for a $1,3 billion contract to mine coal and build thermal-power generators in Zimbabwe.

In 2007 the Chinese government brought farm machinery worth $25 million to Zimbabwe, including 424 tractors and 50 trucks, as part of a $58 million loan to the Zimbabwean government.

In return for the equipment and the loan the Zimbabwean government pledged and delivered 30 million kilogrammes of tobacco to the People’s Republic of China.

Other Zimbabwe-China agreements included a deal between the Zimbabwe Mining Development and China’s Star Communications, forming a joint venture to mine chrome, with funding from the China Development Bank.

Zimbabwe-China relations have become so crucial that our police are said to have created a “China desk”, to protect Chinese interests in the country.

In December 2007, Chinese company, Sinosteel Corporation, acquired a 67% stake in Zimbabwe’s leading ferrochrome producer and exporter Zimasco Holdings.

Zimasco Holdings is the fifth largest high carbonated ferrochrome producer in the world.

But rosy as all this investment may sound to Zimbabwe, my concern with these “friends” of ours is that they exploit their workers.

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