7 August 2012

Zambia: 12 Nabbed Over Chinese Killing

Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt
File photo: The mine union condemned the violent act by the employees at the Collum Coal mine and has since called for the law to take its course.

THE Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) has said management at the Chinese owned Collum Coal Mine in Sinazongwe was in the process of increasing the salaries for its employees before they rioted at the weekend.

And police have arrested 12 suspects in connection with the killing of the Chinese national Wu Shaengzai and another Huang Jiawou who was seriously injured in the attack.

MUZ general secretary Joseph Chewe said the union condemned the violent act by the employees at the Collum Coal mine and has since called for the law to take its course.

Mr Chewe said in an interview yesterday that the union was confident that the salary increment which was agreed upon between the union and

management last week would soon be effected.

Mr Chewe, who could not give the figures for the new salaries, said the amounts were far above the recently announced minimum wages.

"We condemn acts of violence as all problems have to be addressed through dialogue on the table. The rule of law should prevail in this matter. As a union we expect employees to co-exist with the investors," he said.

He said at no time had the union encouraged employees or its members to be violent like they did at the weekend which resulted in one Chinese being killed while another was battling for his life after being badly injured.

Police have since launched a manhunt for suspected killers of 50-year-old Wu Shengzai.

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

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

Mr Chewe said what had happened at the Collum Coal mine was a lesson to the local union leaders and their members and that such action should be avoided in the mining sector.

He said the problem of poor wages had been prevailing for a long time at the coal mine in Sinazongwe and that the union recently engaged management into negotiations for improved conditions of service.

He said it was unfortunate that the employees had lost patience and took the law into their own hands.

He said the workers should have waited for management to implement the revised salaries which he said was a better package.

"Going by the meeting we had last week with management, we are positive that the improved salaries would be implemented soon," he said.

He said the situation could have been worsened by people who stay closer to the mine whom he said need to be sensitised on the need to respect investors.

"We need to sensitise the villagers who stay near the mine as there is communication breakdown between them and the investors," he said.

Last month, Labour minister Fackson Shamenda, announced the revised minimum wages for domestic workers from K250,000 to K522,400 per month.

The minimum wage for shop and other general workers had also been raised by over 100 pe cent from K419,000 to K1,132,400 and these changes were effective from July 4, this year.

According to deputy southern province police chief Fred Mtondo, the 12 suspects that were picked up would appear in the Choma magistrate's court today.

He said the suspects have been charged, among other offences with theft and riotous behaviour while police were pursuing three others who were on the run.

And Mr Shamenda apologised on behalf of the Government to the Collum Mine management when he visited the mine in Maamba Sinazongwe area yesterday in the company of provincial Minister Obvious Mwaliteta.

Mr Mwaliteta said police presence would remain at the mine for some time to ensure peace and order.

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