Chinese brutality in the workplace


“I was beaten up, I was clapped, they spat in my face, I was thrown out of my job, I was told that I complained too much and my protests would negatively influence fellow workers and cause unrest at the company.”

These were cries of a disheartened former employee of a Chinese brick-making company, who gave his name as Trymore Zizhou.

“The brick-making company run by Chinese operates 24 hours non-stop and when I was still there, we would have shifts, where some would report for duty from 5am every day to 6pm, allowing another team of workers to take over from there till morning the following day,” Zizhou said.

“We would be forced to work with no rest, not even having time to smoke while our Chinese bosses watched us, puffing away at their cigarettes, hands in pockets as we sweated around the blazing ovens of bricks, toiling for peanuts,” he said.

Tongai Chikanda, who is still working for a Chinese Brick-making company (name supplied), echoed Zizhou’s sentiments.

“Our Chinese bosses watch us for 24 hours. They even take shifts to make us work like donkeys and they don’t want to see us taking a rest, but at the end of the day they give as little as $95 for wages, which they claim is just ‘something to help us out ’ and they promise to give us more later,” said Chikanda.

He said they were given payslips typed on bond papers and on pay days they queued at their workplaces for their earnings as the company never opened bank accounts for workers.

Another disgruntled employee at the brick-making company who worked as a security guard claimed the payslips they were getting from their Chinese bosses did not show if they were remitting tax to the government.

“We just receive payslips showing some funny figures for the moneys we earn, showing some cooked up balances to be paid later, but not showing any tax amounts remitted to government, yet our bosses tell us we pay government tax,” said Arnold Chipunza (not his real name), the disgruntled security guard.

Workers from some two brick-making companies in Harare’s Dzivarasekwa Extension suburb (Company names supplied), who spoke to this reporter expressed anger at the way their Chinese bosses brutalised them.

They claimed that every time they worked, their bosses always tailed them, waiting to pounce on them if they dared take a rest.

Workers also claimed that their bosses beat them with fists and kicked them with heavy safety boots, cases which they said were common during the colonial era, but which they said they had to stomach in to keep their jobs.

A survey carried out by this reporter around the city in Chineseowned shops and firms, showed high levels of employee harassment.

Workers were mostly being harshly ordered to carry out tasks, shouted at and taunted, accused of being lazy and lacking brains and in other shops they would be made to go out into the streets and call customers to come and buy from shops.

Addressing delegates at the Build It Expo in the city recently, local industrialists accused Chinese businesspeople of physical abuse, overworking and underpaying their employees.

Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Workers’ Union (ZICAWU) chairperson Enjula Mpofu urged workers to defend themselves against Chinese employers, a move observers warned could trigger xenophobic violence across the country.

“We are trying to work to address these issues and we are engaging the Ministry of Labour regarding these matters. We have problems with Chinese employers who are ill-treating workers. They do not give their workers protective clothing, hence they work in tattered overalls,” said Mpofu.

The ZICAWU boss said the Chinese say nothing can be done to them as they claim to have government immunity.

“Workers for most Chinese firms have no payslips and they have pieces of papers written in Chinese and we don’t even know what they are getting,” Mpofu said.

Confederation Industry Federation of Zimbabwe president Philip Chiyangwa is on record in the media saying he is unhappy about the level of cruelty by the Chinese.

“We have laws that protect us, but there are people who are making sure they give preference to Chinese who are even beating up workers here,” said Chiyangwa.

The Chinese government sent a high-powered delegation a few months ago to meet its investors in Zimbabwe in a bid to mend the souring relations between the locals and Chinese employers in the country, but reports filtering in so far continue to show lack of repentance on the part of Chinese employers in the country, with-ever increasing levels of brutality against workers in Chinese firms.