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UN warns of Chinese companies violating rights of workers in Zimbabwe

The United Nations (UN) says it is concerned about Zimbabwean labour laws which are seemingly protecting the interests of ‘abusive’ Chinese companies at the expense of local employees.

This was revealed in a report released on 30 August complementing the just-ended UN’s three-week-long 107th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi attended the summit on behalf of Zimbabwe.

“The committee is concerned about reports that Zimbabwean workers employed in foreign companies operating in the state party, in particular some Chinese companies, experience a range of violations that manifest racially discriminatory attitudes, including physical abuse and being provided sub-standard and inferior housing and meals as compared with foreign co-workers,” read the report.

“The committee is also concerned by reports of lack of effective steps taken by the state party to investigate all such allegations (article five).”

In 2020, police arrested a Chinese national, Zhang Xuen after he shot an employee five times and wounded another at the mine he runs in Gweru, during a row with workers over outstanding pay.
In 2020, police arrested a Chinese national, Zhang Xuen after he shot an employee five times and wounded another at the mine he runs in Gweru, during a row with workers over outstanding pay.

The committee urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to institute laws that protect the rights of local people working for foreigners.

“The committee recommends that the state party ensure that all its labour laws and laws that prohibit discrimination are fully applied to all foreign companies operating in its territory, including those of Chinese origin, and that it promptly and effectively investigates any allegations of racial discrimination or other violations based on racially discriminatory attitudes in relation to foreign companies and, where applicable, punish them as provided by law.” the report further stated.

“The committee also recommends that the state party effectively implement the provisions of the International Labour Organisation Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).”

This comes at a time when Chinese-run mines and construction companies are being dogged by allegations of human rights violations and poor safety measures for local staff.

In 2020, police arrested a Chinese national, Zhang Xuen after he shot an employee five times and wounded another at the mine he runs in Gweru, during a row with workers over outstanding pay.

The incident provoked public anger and calls for a re-evaluation of Chinese mining operations in the country. Zhang was later charged with attempted murder.

The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe, however, described the shooting as an isolated incident.

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