CNRG condemns shooting of employees by a Chinese Miner
CENTRE FOR NATURAL RESOURCE GOVERNANCE condemns the shooting of Zimbabwean citizens by a Chinese gold miner which happened on Sunday on the outskirts of Gweru. Zhang Xueun (41) shot and injured Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona during a confrontation over their outstanding salaries.
The shooting incident exposes the extent of human rights abuses and unfair labour practices in the extractive sector in Zimbabwe. These escalating human rights abuses are against the Business and Human Rights guiding principles which implores states to protect workers against human rights abuses; ensure corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and offer greater access by victims to effective remedies.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on “every individual and every organ of society” to promote and respect human rights. Every organ of the society means that even cooperates players have an obligation to uphold people’s rights.
CNRG is also concerned with the silence by the Government of Zimbabwe on numerous human rights abuses and unfair labour practices involving Chinese businesses over the past decade.
The silence by the GoZ is against their commitment to uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR) framework and ILO framework on protecting labour rights. We can’t overemphasize that the number one duty of any government is to protect its citizens from abuse by anyone, be it the government itself, fellow citizens or corporations.
The leniency of the courts against perpetrators of human rights abuses and racism against Zimbabweans by some Chinese nationals is a cause for concern. This confirms findings of the 2013 parliamentary portfolio committee investigations led by Chindori Chininga which reported that ‘the Committee was informed that Chinese companies had an attitude of being untouchable and could operate above the law. The Chinese created the impression within the community and in some government institutions that they were protected by someone in a very ‘high’ office in government.’
Across the country, in almost every sector, there have been numerous complaints over human rights violations by Chinese business people. In the extractive and natural resources sector, CNRG has been raising concern over such misconduct by Chinese mining companies. This year, CNRG has recorded cases of Chinese mining companies that assault employees and dismiss them from work whenever they report the assault cases to police. Failure to pay workers’ salaries is now becoming part of some of the Chinese companies’ culture.
It is important to note that the Gweru incident happened during a national Covid-19 lockdown when mine workers are sacrificing their health and that of their families and communities to work in mines for the benefit of their employers. This incident attests to the national outcry concerning corporate impunity enjoyed by Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe with government turning a blind eye. The fact that no senior government official has been courageous enough to address the media on the misuse of firearms by a foreign national on citizens is a national disgrace.
Linked to many other reports of outright racism by Chinese nationals against Zimbabweans, including striking a diamond worker with a hammer on the forehead in Marange, this incident must mark a turning point where Never Again must these abuses be experienced by Zimbabweans in their own country.
CNRG wishes to reiterate that mining companies continue to be a burden to the communities that host them where they exhibit all forms of oppression and violence – direct and indirect as well as perpetrating gender, environmental and cultural violence.
It is the duty of government to screen and only allow prudent, responsible investors into the country to avoid exposing local communities to violent crime by so-called investors.
CNRG calls on the government of Zimbabwe to:
- Thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to the shooting incident where Wendy Chikwaira and Kennedy Tachiona were shot and injured by Zhang Xueun
- Cancel the firearm certificate used by Zhang Xueun for “knowingly and without lawful cause, discharging a firearm in a public place.”
- Set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the relations between extractive industries and their employees & host communities
- Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses in the extractive sector
- The Judicial Service Commission to review judgements passed against captains of industry that abuse the rights of workers and communities.
- The government of Zimbabwe to reserve small scale mining for locals.
- Review the existing labour laws (remunerations and working conditions) and ensure punitive measures for mining companies that do not adhere to business and human rights principles.
- Mine workers unions to enter into synergies with Civil Society Organisations and facilitate capacity building on business and human rights for their members.