BY TENDAI MAKARIPE
CHINA has urged Zimbabwe’s law enforcement agencies to deal with cases of human rights, labour and environmental law violations by Chinese companies or individuals operating in Zimbabwe.
The Chinese Embassy’s call comes amid allegations of human rights abuses levelled against Chinese companies operating in the country.
These include exposing workers to danger by denying them protective clothing, long working hours and degrading treatment in the workplace.
The Chinese embassy said: “It is the consistent position of the Chinese government that Chinese businesses operating overseas follow domestic laws and regulations. As a matter of fact, most Chinese businesses in Zimbabwe are making a conscientious effort to comply with the laws and regulations of the country.
“In the meantime, isolated incidents cannot be used to write off China’s general goodwill towards Zimbabwe. Over decades, the Chinese businesses here have been contributing significantly to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, job creation and charity programmes.”
The Chinese have been accused of exerting local miners to long working hours stretching to as long as 12 or more hours in violation of the country’s labour laws.
In Zimbabwe, the standard working hours are eight-and-half hours a day and 44 hours a week.
In accordance with the Labour Act, the Minister of Labour may issue regulations regarding overtime, shift work and night work.
Overtime may be regulated under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The embassy indicated that a clash of cultures could be the cause for the challenges being faced.
“Yet it is a hard truth that for many developing countries including China, it is essential that their people work hard to catch up with developed ones.
“It is hardly possible that any developing country or a backward one can easily realise development goals through merely keeping to a ‘nine-to-five’, Monday to Friday working schedule by its general population,” the embassy said.
“In China, extra hours of work are normal in companies and government offices because we realise that only by working hard can our life be improved and our country become strong.”
To deal with human rights or labour related clashes that emanate from cultural differences, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association legal officer Josephine Chiname said the government must promote inter-agency in monitoring various aspects of business and human rights in the mining sector.
“For instance, the operations of Chinese companies in the mining sector can involve the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, rural district councils among others. Inter-agency cooperation is a crucial aspect in accountability in a sector involving many actors,” Chiname said.