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Concern over continued abuse of locals at Chinese-run mines

There is growing concern over the number of Chinese nationals who violate the country’s immigration laws and reports of human rights abuses at Chinese-run businesses.

The latest incident took place at the Chinese-owned – Fools Investment Mine at Hope Fountain, near Bulawayo where one of the Chinese nationals assaulted two employees over outstanding salaries.

Zhang Zhongyi, 60 years, was employed as a metallurgist at the mine.

He was convicted and sentenced to pay $5 000 or 30 days imprisonment at Tredgold Magistrates court for the assault case.

While Zhang assault case was still pending at the courts, the country’s immigration officials established that he was an illegal immigrant and he was charged for contravening Section 29(10b), as read with Section 29(2a) of the Immigration Act Chapter 4:02 for ‘entering or remaining in Zimbabwe after his permit had expired.

He was fined another $5 000 and was ordered to leave the country for China through Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

In an interview with CITE, political analyst, Effie Ncube said it was worrying that Chinese officials took advantage of the country’s socio-economic situation to break the country’s laws while the government continued courting China for friendship despite their scandals.

“State-generated poverty and unemployment is causing Zimbabweans to endure human rights violations and humiliation in the hands of some Chinese immigrant criminals. The inaction by the government is revealing of the desperation with which it seeks to court Chinese relationships regardless of the high cost to dignity, life and limb,” the analyst said.

“As a result we now have one law for some Chinese immigrant criminals and another law for the rest of Zimbabweans. This is unacceptable.”

However in an interview, Fools Investment Mine Mining Manager, Thabani Masuku, said the incident that took place was unfortunate.

“He had all his papers but the challenge was they expired. His permit expired in June last year, then he went to China but came back in November. He was in the process of reapplying but due to the lockdown he faced delays. It is unfortunate this incident had to happen,” Masuku said.

The mine manager added that they were engaging with Zhang’s lawyers to see how best he could be assisted with obtaining a new work permit.

“I think he may renew his permit. The lawyers said we can seek a presidential pardon so that he can stay in the country and renew. We are waiting for the dust to settle down but he (Zhang) was a good gentleman, and worked well with the workers, we don’t know what happened for this to occur,” Masuku said.

The court heard that Zhang’s certificate of entry was issued at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on November 12 in 2020 but expired on December 12 but was still working at the mine until the time of his arrest.

Fools Investment Mine was also charged for employing an immigrant who did not have a valid permit and was ordered to pay a $40 000 fine.

Zhang’s legal representative, Sheron Drau of Pundu and Associates legal practitioners, referred all questions to Masuku.

“You can talk to Masuku, the mining manager or go through the court documents,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Employment Council (NEC) summoned the management of Fools Investment to answer charges of underpaying employees and failing to provide protective clothing.

The workers are paid between $12 000 to $14 000 per month, instead of $18 000 which is the minimum salary for the least paid worker.

The National Union of Mines Quarrying, Iron and Steel Workers of Zimbabwe (NUMQISWZ), on behalf of 81 workers, petitioned the company demanding that it must provide the workers with protective clothing.

The union had given Fools Mine up to January 29, to comply with or to respond to the petition but the company did not act, prompting workers to take the issue to NEC.

The hearing has been set for February 17.

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