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CNRG not enthused by government’s silence on Chinese human rights abuse, especially in the mining sector

“This confirms findings of the 2013 parliamentary portfolio committee investigations led by Chindori Chininga which reported that ‘the Committee was informed that Chinese companies had an attitude of being untouchable and could operate above the law. The Chinese created the impression within the community and in some government institutions that they were protected by someone in a very 'high' office in government.”

By Business Reporter – Thursday 25 June 2020

HARARE (Mining Index) – THE CENTRE for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) is concerned with the silence by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) on numerous human rights abuses and unfair labour practices involving Chinese business owners operating in Zimbabwe over the past decade.

This follows a recent incident in which Zhang Xueun (41) shot and injured Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona during a confrontation over their outstanding salaries at Reden Mine on 21 June 2020.

“The silence by the GoZ is against their commitment to uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR) framework and ILO framework on protecting labour rights. We can’t overemphasize that the number one duty of any government is to protect its citizens from abuse by anyone, be it the government itself, fellow citizens or corporations,”

“The leniency of the courts against perpetrators of human rights abuses and racism against Zimbabweans by some Chinese nationals is a cause for concern,” said CNRG.

In a press statement, CNRG outlined complaints over human rights violations by Chinese business people.

In the extractive and natural resources sector, CNRG has been raising concern over such misconduct by Chinese mining companies.

“This confirms findings of the 2013 parliamentary portfolio committee investigations led by Chindori Chininga which reported that ‘the Committee was informed that Chinese companies had an attitude of being untouchable and could operate above the law. The Chinese created the impression within the community and in some government institutions that they were protected by someone in a very ‘high’ office in government.”

This year, CNRG recorded cases of Chinese mining companies that assaulted and dismissed employees from work whenever workers reported the assault cases to police.

“Failure to pay workers’ salaries is now becoming part of some of the Chinese companies’ culture,” said CNRG.

It is important to note that the Gweru incident happened during a national Covid-19 lockdown when mine workers are sacrificing their health and that of their families and communities to work in mines for the benefit of their employers.

“This incident attests to the national outcry concerning corporate impunity enjoyed by Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe with government turning a blind eye,” said CNRG.

CNRG is calling on government to cancel the firearm certificate used to Zhang Xueun for “knowingly and without lawful cause, discharging a firearm in a public place.”

“The fact that no senior government official has been courageous enough to address the media on the misuse of firearms by a foreign national on citizens is a national disgrace,”

“Linked to many other reports of outright racism by Chinese nationals against Zimbabweans, including striking a diamond worker with a hammer on the forehead in Marange, this incident must mark a turning point where Never Again must these abuses be experienced by Zimbabweans in their own country,” said CNRG.

CNRG reiterated that mining companies continue to be a burden to the communities that host them where they exhibit all forms of oppression and violence, direct and indirect as well as perpetrating gender, environmental and cultural violence.

It is the duty of government to screen and only allow prudent, responsible investors into the country to avoid exposing local communities to violent crime by so-called investors.

CNRG called for government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate relations between extractive industries, their employees and host communities, further calling on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses in the extractive sector.

“The shooting incident exposes the extent of human rights abuses and unfair labour practices in the extractive sector in Zimbabwe. These escalating human rights abuses are against the Business and Human Rights guiding principles which implore to protect workers against human rights abuses; ensure corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and offer greater access by victims to effective remedies,” said CNRG

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on “every individual and every organ of society” to promote and respect human rights. Every organ of the society means that even cooperates players have an obligation to uphold people’s rights.

CNRG also noted the need for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)  to review judgements passed against captains of industry that abuse the rights of workers and communities, advocating for government to reserve small scale mining for locals.

It has become a necessity to review the existing labour laws, including remunerations and working conditions, and ensure punitive measures for mining companies that do not adhere to business and human rights principles.

The Centre also encouraged mine workers unions to enter into synergies with Civil Society Organisations and facilitate capacity building on business and human rights for their members. ENDS// www.miningindex.co.zw

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