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NO SLAVE LABOUR

GOVERNMENT must move in swiftly and protect the innocent workers at a Chinese-owned company in Siavonga from being exploited.

They must not suffer because they brought their problems at the working place to the attention of a government minister. Government must show that no Zambian should work under slave conditions on account that a foreign investor has brought in his or her money, thus providing the much needed employment.

Investors must be told in no uncertain terms that even as the government welcomes them with open arms, they need to respect not only their hosts but the country’s laws as well. That several workers at the Chinese-owned Zamfresh Fish Company in Siavonga have been fired for complaining about poor conditions of service to Livestock and Fisheries Minister Makoza Chikote when he visited the company at the weekend makes sad reading.

Zamfresh is one of the big fish farms operating fish cages on Lake Kariba in Siavonga and obviously a major employer. According to the affected workers, the company told them to go back home and no reason has been given. “After the visit by the minister, our Chinese bosses were upset that we complained to him about the poor conditions and the inhuman treatment we are subjected to. “Right now they have asked us not to report for work,” explained one of the workers in an interview.

The mistreatment of Zambian workers by some of the foreign investors must not be allowed to continue. It must be curtailed. Just last week, Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe took a foreign investor to task in Luapula Province and gave him a week’s ultimatum to improve working conditions at his mine.

The minister, to his utter disbelief, found there were no toilet facilities for the workers, who also did not have protective clothing, including safety shoes. It is important that Government impresses upon investors that the country has set standards which they must meet to operate, otherwise their operations could be closed. We note that recently, the local authority shut down operations at Zamfresh Fish Farm for a week due to poor sanitation and non-adherence of Covid-19 health guidelines.

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One of the major complaints from Zambians about some foreign investors is their failure to pay their workers even the minimum wage. Government must ensure that the workers who have lost their jobs at Zamfresh Fish Farm are reinstated with full benefits immediately, with a stern warning to the company that its future depends on its adherence to the country’s labour laws. No Zambian should be victimised for complaining about slave conditions.

They must enjoy their work with all their rights guaranteed. In fact, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security must henceforth be more pro-active and ensure that it is on top of things and nip such exploitative tendencies in the bud.

What the country needs are investors who would add value to people’s lives and thus help the government meet their aspirations. We know that investors expect a fair return on their investments but they must realise that there must be a winwin situation for all which has no room for exploitative slave conditions.

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