Zambia Protest China

"Zambians are peaceful people, but when pushed to the wall, they react."


"We are being robbed of our birthright by the Chinese."

Zambians attack Chinese businesses
by David Blair, Telegraph, Oct 3, 2006

Chinese shopkeepers barricaded their properties against gangs of looters in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, yesterday as a presidential election sparked a backlash against Beijing's growing influence in Africa.

Michael Sata, an opposition candidate, won 28 per cent of the vote after accusing China of "exploitation" and turning Zambia into a "dumping ground". Although President Levy Mwanawasa was re-elected with 43 per cent of the vote, Mr Sata won in areas most affected by Chinese investment. In Lusaka, he polled almost three times as many votes as the president.

China has become one of the key foreign powers in Africa as it searches for raw materials to fuel its economy. Chinese immigrants have opened many shops in Lusaka, where their community has grown tenfold to about 30,000 in the past decade. But their presence has sparked great resentment. Chinese businessmen are accused of underpaying their workers, ignoring safety rules and driving local companies out of business with cheap and shoddy goods. Last year, 46 miners died in an accident at Chambishi, a copper mine owned by Chinese investors. Three months ago, its workforce rioted over low wages and poor conditions. Mr Sata, the leader of the Patriotic Front, claimed yesterday that Mr Mwanawasa had "stolen victory". He mobilised these grievances behind his presidential campaign.

"We want to work with the Chinese, but they must change," he said. "Their labour relations are very bad. They are not adding any value to what they claim is investment. Instead of creating jobs for the local workforce, they bring in Chinese workers to cut wood and carry water. "We don't want Zambia to be a dumping ground for their human beings."

When it became clear that Mr Sata had lost the election, riots broke out in his Lusaka strongholds. Mr Sata said the government had "robbed" him of victory by "stealing votes" from under the noses of "timid and toothless" election observers from the European Union. Resentment over what his supporters believe was a "rigged" election caused the unrest. But looters soon began targeting Chinese-owned shops.

In Kamwala market, the Chinese owner of a clothes store locked his heavy metal door as looters ran down the street, carrying their booty. As a panic-stricken crowd gathered nearby, he decided to leave. "Out, out," he told his Chinese assistant. "We go now." The two men ran out of their shop, barricading the blue door behind them, and sped away in a white car. All the shops nearby, many of them Chinese-owned, were empty, their windows shuttered, their closed doors reinforced with metal bars.

Clouds of black smoke rose from tyres blazing in the streets in the nearby township of Garden. Here, people vented their anger over the Chinese. "Wherever you go — the market, the town centre — the Chinese are there and they are putting Zambians out of business," said Joe Mamba, a 27-year-old cobbler. "I make shoes with genuine leather. The Chinese people make bad shoes very much cheaper, so people go to them and I have no business."

A crowd of youths gathered on a street-corner nearby. Bruno Mwanza, an unemployed 34-year-old, said: "We are being robbed of our birthright by the Chinese. "Zambians are peaceful people, but when pushed to the wall, they react."

Hu avoids anti-Chinese protests. TheTimes, Feb 2, 2007
..."Nothing is coming back. We were hoping for improvements in the local infrastructure, housing, but there is nothing". Consequently, today it is difficult to find any local with a good word to say about the Government’s new "Asian friends". A new smelter is under construction by a Chinese company rather than local contractors. "They are bad payers. They bring in their own people to do the jobs. If our leaders were not so corrupt they would not be selling our birthrights to them" said Moses, a digger in his mid-30s......Guy Scott, the deputy leader of the Patriotic Front opposition party, told The Times: "The Chinese are no longer welcome. They are seen as cheats and our Government as crooks for allowing them to get away with it." Such criticisms are now common across the continent. Beijing has also found its new allies come with a price. President Hu was in Sudan yesterday, urging his main foreign supplier of oil to take a more conciliatory stand over UN demands for a peacekeeping force in Darfur, although not making his aid conditional on progress, as urged by Western critics who accuse Sudan of genocide. It is clear, however, that China's economic needs — which have already helped its trade with Africa to increase fourfold in a decade to about $55 billion (£29 billion) — are set to triumph over any diplomatic niceties.

Anti-China movement rises in Africa., Feb 2, 2007
Chinese firms doing business in Africa are starting see backlash from their rapid investment expansion on the continent according to an article in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal....Once greeted with open arms, the rush into the world's poorest continent has triggered resentment towards China in some areas according to Trofimov, who writes: Feelings of resentment about China's unfolding scramble for influence in Africa are beginning to bubble up across the continent. African leaders still hail China's burgeoning involvement as a solution to Africa's woes and a welcome alternative to the West. But among ordinary Africans, appreciation of this unprecedented influx of Chinese investments, products and settlers isn't nearly as uniform. Several high profile incidents, including an accidental explosion followed by shootings of employees at a Chinese mine in Zambia, have triggered animosity among works says Trofimov. "The Chinese, they don't even consider us to be human beings," Trofimov quotes Albert Mwanaumo, a former Zambian miner who says he was shot by a Chinese supervisor, as saying. "They think they have the right to rule us." Trofimov continues: Nowhere has this grass-roots backlash been stronger than in Zambia. In elections last fall, opposition leader Michael Sata ran for president on a platform of outright China-bashing, unleashing against Beijing the same kind of fury that populist radicals in Latin America or the Middle East direct at the U.S. "Zambia is becoming a province -- no, a district -- of China," he thundered. "We've removed one foreign power and we don't want another foreign power here, especially one that is not a democracy." "Among ordinary people, a very strong resentment, bordering on racism, is emerging against the Chinese," says Henning Melber, a former activist in Namibia's struggle for majority rule who now heads the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation think tank in Sweden. "It's because the Chinese are seen as backing the [African] governments in oppressing their own people."

Zambia opposition leader arrested. BBC, Dec 5, 2006
...Mr Sata, whose nickname is King Cobra, campaigned for what he called "Zambia for Zambians" and criticised the influence of economic partners like China

Pictures of the harsh life of a Zambian man mining for talc. BBC, Dec 5, 2006



Zambia resists China influence, IPS, Oct 18, 2006
Votes cast for presidential contender Michael Sata in the recent election suggest a growing discontent among Zambians over the effects of increased Chinese involvement in their country. President Levy Mwanawasa won the Sep. 28 poll, but Sata received an overwhelming majority of votes in the capital -- Lusaka -- and the Copperbelt, two areas where Chinese traders and investors have a strong presence in the economy. Despite the cordial relations that exist between China and Zambia, resentment towards Chinese businesspeople is widespread among small-scale Zambian businesspeople and poorly-paid workers. Neo Simutanyi, a political scientist at the University of Zambia, says the anti-China sentiment that Sata raised in the run-up to the election endeared him to many voters in Lusaka and the Copperbelt. Simutanyi believes the labour practices of especially Chinese businesspeople spurred some people to vote for Sata. The Chinese are frequently accused of being the main culprits in the use of casual labour, which involves lower pay and no social security benefits. According to the Chinese embassy, investment by its nationals in the Zambian economy stands at more than 300 million dollars, spread across 160 enterprises and employing more than 10,000 Zambians.

Sata, who was Mwanawasa's main challenger, made China's presence in Zambia's copper mining and trading sectors a campaign issue. "They ill treat our people and that is unacceptable. We are not going to condone exploitative investors. This country belongs to Zambians," Sata said of Chinese investors. At another event he said that "Foreign relations must benefit all concerned. It must not be one-way traffic. Chinese investment has not added any value to the lives of the people of Zambia. We want investors -- local investors, foreign investors -- who add value." Sata is not alone. The Federation of Free Trade Unions (FFTUZ) in Zambia threw its weight behind his campaign, and trade union leaders made similar accusations...

FFTUZ president Joyce Nonde blames the country's weak legal framework which allows foreign investors to abuse Zambian workers with impunity. Fackson Shamenda, regional director of Union Network International-Africa and former Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president (ZCTU), agrees that there is a need to strengthen investment and labour laws to make them more favourable to the Zambian worker. Shamenda, who took over leadership of the ZCTU from Zambia's second president -- Frederick Chiluba -- says that laws should specify which positions can be held by foreigners in a foreign-owned company. Presently, investors fill posts with their own staff even when qualified Zambians are available. Ironically, this is coming against a background of strong economic and political ties between Zambia and China dating from pre-independence days. China has expressed interest in helping the country build a multi-million dollar national sport stadium. Zambia is set to host the All Africa Games in 2011 but has no proper stadium for this event.

Zambians attack Chinese businesses, Telegraph, Oct 3, 2006

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~