From Algeria to Zimbabwe, relations between Chinese companies in Africa and their local employees are often uneasy. Violence has broken out before at Zambia’s mines. This time it turned deadly.
A Chinese supervisor was killed at the weekend, and two others injured, after a riot broke out over pay at the Collum coal mine in the south of the country. Striking miners were angry that the company had ignored last month’s increase in the minimum wage introduced by the Zambian government. The mine is owned and run by Chinese investors from Jiangxi.
The supervisor died after a mine trolley was pushed at him as he and his colleagues fled underground. A dozen miners and local villagers have since been arrested in connection with the death. (Update: police said on Aug. 7th that one miner had been charged with murder and 11 others with rioting and theft.) Two years ago, Zambian police charged two Chinese supervisors at Collum with attempted murder following the shooting and wounding of 13 miners in an earlier pay dispute. The charges were subsequently dropped. Long before that, some 500 Zambian copper mine workers were sacked in 2008 after rioting and attacking a Chinese manager whose injuries required hospital treatment.
Despite its recent high-level charm offensive towards Africa–and state media making much in its reports of the weekend’s incident of the benefits Chinese investment has brought Zambia, is all this really what Beijing likes to claim are the “win-win partnerships” it strikes in its natural-resources-for-infrastructure deals with African nations?