Monday, March 10, 2008

Chinese and Zambia in Collision Course

A strike and subsequent sackings at Chambishi Copper Smelter (CCS) in Zambia have attracted widespread media focus on Chinese investments in extractives in Africa. The Chambisi Copper Smelter is at the heart of the African Economic and Trade Zone that was inaugurated by Chinese President Hu Jintao during his African tour in 2007. The smelter is a joint venture between China Nonferrous Metal Mining (CNMC) and Yunnan Copper Industry (YNCIG).The German company Norddeutsche operates in conjunction with the Chinese companies at Chambisi. Ord River Resources Limited, an Australian company, also has a stake in the venture.

China is about to invest another $300m into mining and manufacturing in the Copper Belt in top of the $900m previously invested, according to a recent announcement by the Zambian government. President of Mineworkers' Union of Zambia, Rayford Mbulu, says the Chinese have the worst safety record and pay the lowest wages. The average salary is 250,000 kwacha ($65) a month. In 2005 50 workers died in an explosion at a Chinese-owned copper mine nearby. In 2003 the smelter had to cease operation when 55 workers fell ill from poisoning.O

On March 2, More than 500 workers at CCS staged a work stoppage to press for improved wages and conditions. Reports stated that workers were earning as little as K291, 200 (US$78) per month and that Chinese management was allegedly not following Zambian labour laws. The following day workers rioted, injuring a Chinese manager and damaging property and Chinese managers were taken hostage. Later, Zambian workers set fire to a truck and a guardroom and damaged other property, which in turn caused Chinese management to fire 500 employees involved in the riots.

However, under intense scrutiny and tension, Chinese management reinstated the 500 workers. Yet, this action by management has not relieved tension but attracted widespread media focus on Chinese investments in extractives in Africa. The mines deputy Chief Executive says part of China's purpose in opening the mine was to help the local economy, but there is little sign of improvement in the township of Chambishi or in regards to the economic status of Zambians.


Phil BC said...

Thanks for the info. In the charged world of leftist politics African issues and African class struggles all too often get overlooked.

Just out of a matter of interest do you get many visits from Africans, and is there a big Africa-based blogland out there?

Renegade Eye said...

My organization is printing a pamphlet, which goes along with this post, called China's Long March To Capitalism.

You have been having good African coverage lately.

blackstone said...

Yes, phil I definately agree. Thats something i'm definitely trying to change and expose that fact that there is class struggle in Africa and that Africans are conscious of this struggle. They are aware they are being exploited by imperialist nations such as China, India and the US, and are taking matters into their own hands. When you have hundreds or thousands of people in one country striking, rioting or protesting, why is it ignored if it is happening in Africa or Sub Saharan Africa but heralded if it happens in South America or Europe?

Yes, i do get many visits from Africans, particularly South Africa, Kenya and Egypt. But also i've had visitors from Zimbabwe, Cote D'ivoire and Morocco. Who i get usually coincides with the topic of the post. If it's North Africa centered, then i get alot of people from North Africa reading, if it's Southern Africa, alot from Southern Africa,etc.

And there is a huge Africa based blogosphere. Something which i am trying hard to tap into.

blackstone said...

Thanks renegade, i appreciate the solidarity. Let me know if that pamphlet ever goes online, i would love to read it.

The Red Son said...

Copper is big business now. Copper, lead and other basic metals are more valuable as ever as countries like China and India are growing/"modernizing" at astronomical rates and need lots of copper for wiring, etc. Simple case of supply and demand. It is ironic that the world's most valuable products, gold, diamonds and other precious stones, saffron, copper etc. are often harvested/mined by the worst paid workers in the most dangerous and exploitive conditions, as is evident in this case.

As for Africa related web traffic and the African blogosphere, I mostly gets hits from northern Africa and mostly from places currently experiencing social/political/economic/cultural turmoil, i.e. Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria.

Alastair Fraser said... - then click on blog, loads of updates on this and other stories. Thanks for the post.

Phil BC said...

As fate would have it (spurred on a bit by my own lack of African coverage) I've posted something up about the Black Gold documentary on Ethiopian coffee growers.

Re: African class struggles, interesting question why the left in metropolitan countries tends to ignore sub-Saharan Africa. I don't think it's an issue of the left's racism - it more likely reflects the lack of coverage these countries receive in mainstream media. I'd be interested to know what your thoughts are about it.

Rosa Lichtenstein said...

I have sent you a PM at RevLeft about the results.

Please read it!