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Zim govt faces UN backlash over racist Chinese employers



SEVEN Zimbabwean civil society organisations have presented a damning report to the United Nations over the failure by the government to uphold the country’s obligations it ratified under the Covenant on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).


The UN is currently holding a three-week-long 107th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva, Switerland in which the situation in Zimbabwe, among other countries, will be reviewed before the world body issues its assessment report.

The meeting began on 8 August and ends on 30 August.

A UN backlash for Zimbabwe will not only cause diplomatic embarrassment but also place the country in the international hall of shame.

The NewsHawks exclusively obtained a damning report that was submitted to the UN committee by the seven civil society organisations which was in response to the one tabled by the Zimbabwean government in which it claimed everything was rosy in the country.

The seven organisations are Solidarity Centre; Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition; Domestic Workers’ Association of Zimbabwe; African End Sexual Harassment Initiative; Zimbabwe Domestic and Allied Workers’ Union; Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation, and the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations.

The organisations tore into the government for casting a blind eye on abuses by the Chinese whom they said flagrantly violate the CERD’s articles 5 (a) and (b) pertaining to the UN special convention on the elimination of racial discrimination.

Part of the report presented by Zimbabwe’s civil society organisations reads: “This issue of the discrimination of locals by Chinese nationals is prevalent and it undermines the strides which Zimbabwe has taken in tightening its legislation on the elimination of all forms of discrimination, including in the investment and Development Agency (Zida) Act which provides for non -discrimination clause between local investors.”

“There are recorded cases of Zimbabwean workers facing bodily harm and violence in the context of working in Chinese investment entities, without recourse. The absence of enforcement of laws against Chinese nationals and companies is not extended to investors and nationals from other countries, nor indigenous populations.”

The civil society organisations further submitted that they received reports that there is no equal treatment before the law when it pertains to the Chinese and that this is demonstrated by the contempt that Chinese nationals and Chinese companies in Zimbabwe have towards the laws. 

One such company is Sunny Yi Feng Tiles Zimbabwe, a Chinese-owned ceramics venture.

“For example, Lime, which is used during the tile-making process, was not being managed in tandem with environmental specifications, raising the fear that the substance could contaminate the soil and seep into the nearby Manyame River,” reads another section of the report.

The organisations also said the police had failed to investigate and thus “no prosecution has resulted even though there is sufficient evidence that the stolen ore is valued at USD 4 174 444, a signifiant amount.”

The organisations also told the UN that on 21 January 2020, two Zimbabwean workers —Wendy Chikwira and Kennedy Tichaona — were shot by a Chinese national in the Redan mine in Gweru, during an altercation over unpaid salaries and the shooter fled the country and was reportedly exonerated upon return.

 In addition, the civil society organisations told the UN of another case of Vincent Matakura of Nyatsime Park in Chitungwiza who reported a matter of alleged kidnapping by Terify Taruvinga and his accomplice, a male chinese national by the name Wang Sunny Yi Feng. The organisations said the Zimbabwean police instead arrested the complainant and took him to court where he was later acquitted and added that despite filing a complaint with the Zimbabwe Republic Police on 22 February 2022, the case has still not been heard in court.

In another case, in June 2010, construction workers at a Military College situated at the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC), went on strike over low pay (US$4 per day), alleging regular beatings by their Chinese manager.

“More generally, allegation of beatings by Chinese employers’ cross sectors and sizes of businesses. For example, the Atlantic reports that ‘reports of beatings by Chinese managers are so common that even a cook at Harare’s popular China Garden restaurant complained of them, telling the Zimbabwe Mail and Guardian, that ‘working for these men from the East is hell on earth’.”

“It must be reiterated that Chinese companies rarely face any form of sanction, for such violations.  In fact, Chinese entities, such as Amjin Investments, have entered into joint operations/joint venture agreements with the Zimbabwe Defence forces (Military). The role of the security forces in protecting Chinese investors from accountability for flagrant human rights violations impedes the implementation of laws that protect victims of unfair and inhumane labour practices,” the civil society organisations further wrote in their report to the UN.

 In the past 10 years, Chinese investors have become dominant in Zimbabwe’s economy, particularly in mining, manufacturing and retailing.

 As a result, the government of Zimbabwe has tried to lure investors into the country, and China has obliged. The Asian power’s growing investment in Zimbabwe is cross-sectoral and includes large national-scale projects such as the  repair of water infrastructure for Harare City Council (approximately US$144 million) and the building of the Zimbabwe National Defence University (approximately US$98 million), to small-scale employers running restaurants in downtown Harare.

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