Zimbabwe: Chinese Investors Need Close Monitoring - Zela

24 June 2020

Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (ZELA) has called for close monitoring of Chinese investors in the natural resources sector to curb systematic and widespread pattern of labor rights violations.

In a statement, ZELA accused Chinese companies and investors in the extractive sector of labor violations.

The organisation appealed to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to institute an inquiry into working conditions.

"Chinese mining and natural resource extraction companies and operations should be closely monitored for compliance with labor, environment, worker safety and health laws and standards. Chinese mining companies and other investors should be required by law to adopt and apply business and human rights and responsible sourcing standards in the mining sector.

"The Chinese seem to be taking advantage of the political and economic ties between Zimbabwe and China and Zimbabwe's desperation for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to commit criminal acts, disregard labor laws, partake in illegal mining activities, and engage in leakages of minerals and illegal trade of minerals and other natural resources.

"The Government of Zimbabwe through the Human Rights Commission should consider assessing working conditions under Chinese owned enterprises in Zimbabwe.

"The Mine Workers Unions must increase visits and monitoring trips to mining areas where Chinese companies are operating from and work closely with community-based groups to monitor the living and working conditions of mine workers and impact on communities," said ZELA.

ZELA also urged government to assess mineral production statistics, tax payments and mineral export receipts of Chinese companies, saying public disclosure of such information is key for promoting transparency and accountability.

ZELA also chronicled, from its 2015 study of Anjin, the history of Chinese investors in diamond extraction as riddled by non-payment of taxes, royalties and a lack of tangible contribution to the fiscus.

It said 'in many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labor and human rights standards', adding that poor working conditions at Chinese companies are 'an old problem that is increasing'.

"Government should institute a quick assessment of mineral production statistics, tax payments and mineral export receipts by Chinese gold mining companies, including a quick check on gold supplies to Fidelity Printers and Refineries.

"Apart from the poor working conditions at Chinese mines, what is also of concern to ZELA is that, based on the history of Anjin in Marange, little or no attention seems to be paid by Government on payment of taxes, royalties and gold production levels and contribution to the fiscus.

"There are also well documented cases of Chinese nationals arrested for smuggling gold and wildlife products. Returns submitted to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and the Ministry of Mines by Chinese small scale and large-scale mining entities should be closely scrutinized," said ZELA.

There has been increasing pressure on government over its kid's gloves approach to Chinese investors following a shooting incident at Redden Mine, 25 km from Gweru, where a Chinese national Zhang Xueun 41 shot two of his local employees over a pay dispute.

This has stirred up local sentiments that Chinese firms are given preferential treatment government despite its history of poor working conditions, worker abuse and non-abidance to local environmental laws.

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