Zimbabwe mine workers shot by Chinese mine owner shows ‘systemic’ abuse, watchdog says

In a court affidavit, police said Zhang Xuen shot an employee five times and wounded yet another at the mine that he runs in Gweru province, in central Zimbabwe, throughout a row with workers over outstanding pay.


Zhang has been charged with attempted murder, said Zimbabwe police spokesman Paul Nyathi.

According to local media reports, Zhang failed to enter a plea because there was no approved interpreter in court. He will continue to be in custody until at the very least July 7, the report said.

The shooting happened on Sunday morning, when miner Kenneth Tachiona confronted Zhang after he allegedly refused to pay for his wages in US dollars, as agreed, in line with the affidavit.

Tachiona charged toward Zhang, who then drew his gun, shooting the worker 3 x on his right thigh and twice on the left, in line with the affidavit.

Police said Zhang fired yet another shot at workers, and something of the bullets grazed the chin of an employee. The wounded workers are increasingly being treated at a private hospital.

A video that many speculated to be of the incident has circulated on social media marketing in Zimbabwe, provoking public anger and calls from the local watchdog for a re-evaluation of Chinese mining operations in the united kingdom.

The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe described the shooting as an isolated incident and said it had been in support of an open and transparent probe by local authorities.

“Any possible illegal acts and persons who violate the law should not be shielded. China and Zimbabwe have a long-standing friendship and cooperation. We call upon all relevant sides to safeguard it jealousy and carefully,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement on Twitter.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry told CNN: “Overall, Chinese organizations in Zimbabwe have operated their companies in accordance with local laws and regulations, and made positive contributions to Zimbabwe’s economic and social development.

“We respect Zimbabwe’s handling of the case in accordance with law, but at exactly the same time hope to see Zimbabwe protect the safety as well as legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals. There is traditional friendship between the two countries and we believe both sides will be able to correctly handle this case.”

Dangerous conditions

China is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign investor with significant interests in the country’s extractive sector.

Last year, Chinese firm Tsignchan signed a $2 billion cope with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines to extract chrome, iron ore, nickel and coal, vital resources for China.
At least 10,000 Chinese people are in Zimbabwe, and lots of are working on in the united kingdom’s mining, telecoms, and construction sectors on a contractual basis, according to a 2016 Brookings Institution report.

But their presence in the united kingdom has sometimes been controversial.

Both Chinese-run mines in the country and state mining operations have been dogged with allegations of human rights violations and poor safety measures for staff.
In February, several local miners in Matabeleland South province petitioned a labor court to protest their firing by their Chinese employer.
Last April, workers at another Chinese mining operation in the province complained of being underpaid and working without protective clothing.

Several cases of Chinese miners refusing to pay for salaries or provide their workers with protective clothing, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic, are currently being investigated by ZELA, based on its deputy director Shamiso Mutisi

“It has become a pattern and a method. We have cases where miners are abused, beaten, and discriminated against by Chinese miners,” Mutisi said.

In a statement on Wednesday, ZELA said locals in certain Chinese-owned mines often operate “dangerous, harsh, and life-threatening” conditions, while being paid poorly for his or her time.

Sunday’s shooting is another basis for the government to rethink its political and economic engagements with China, the group said.

“In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a brief history of bad safety, health, environmental, labor, and human rights standards,” the statement said.

CNN has contacted China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

The Chinese community in Gweru has distanced it self from the recent incident and promised to pay for injured workers’ medical bills and support their loved ones as they cope with the issue.

The Chinese community said in a statement the incident does not reflect the behavior of its members, plus they have engaged the company to pay the workers.

“We sincerely hope our friendship and cooperation between your two countries and two peoples won’t be sullied by this isolated incident, which does not reflect the behavior of us all as the Chinese community,” the statement read.

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