CHINESE miners, under pressure to end alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe must be held to account for their transgressions, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) says in a new book on Harare — Beijing economic ties.
The book chronicles tear-jerking allegations of human rights violations and demands that the government immediately intervenes, failure of which it could be blamed for complicity.
The stampede to gain a foothold into Zimbabwe’s vast mineral wealth has gained traction, about 16 years after the late former president Robert Mugabe announced the ‘Look East’ policy in 2005 after a diplomatic showdown with the West that followed controversial agrarian reforms in 2000.
Several Chinese mining companies from across all provinces were profiled in the handbook.
“Allegation on non-payment of wages, casualisation of labour through limited duration contracts, violence against employees, working 10 or more hours without payment of overtime, denial of leave days for bereavement, family emergencies and sick leave and unfair dismissals without following due legal process (are some of the violations,” claimed the book, which is titled ‘The Handbook of Zimbabwe — China Economic Relations’.
“Women employees face discrimination at the workplace through the denial of maternity leave and being paid less than men for the same work done.”
The book claimed that in Mutoko, Manicaland and Zvishavane mine workers said they were exposed to dangerous working conditions.
It claimed community leaders, who took the matter up with Chinese miners were told that companies had no obligation to provide safety gear to contract workers.
“Another excuse used was that the safety clothing is being shipped from China and it takes long. (At one company), it is alleged that some workers even wear slippers to work, putting themselves at risk,” Zela claimed.
“The obligation also entails that the government of Zimbabwe must take the necessary actions to ensure that all persons subject to its jurisdiction mustbe in a position to exercise and enjoy the guaranteed human rights.
“The government of Zimbabwe’s human rights obligations are also applicable in instances where business conduct is concerned and are the basis on which it can be held accountable for acts committed by mining companies in the conduct of their activities.
“Under the obligation to guarantee human rights, government must prevent, investigate and sanction any human rights violation within their territories to avoid international responsibility.”
Zela added that government’s failure to act could be considered a breach of a state’s international legal obligations.
Zela executive director Mutuso Dhliwayo said: “Today, China has significant investments in critical sectors of the Zimbabwean economy such as mining, agriculture, finance, infrastructure and tourism.
“Some Zimbabwean commentators go to the extent of stating that in the absence of Chinese investments, Zimbabwe’s economy could possibly have collapsed.
“There are, however, major concerns over Chinese investments over their potential and actual violation of human rights especially environmental, economic, social and cultural rights,” Dhliwayo added. Zimbabwe Independent