Author: Mr. Mustard
Date: 10-08-06 15:38
lol, your ignorance is your bliss
'Slave mine' causes minster to cry
A minister wept openly as she saw for herself how Zambians are being mistreated at a Chinese run coal mine in Sinazongwe in Southern Province.
But the sorrows of Southern Province Minister, Alice Simango were not over because the Chinese investors at Collum Mine, barred her from entering the mine.
Mrs. Simango openly wept as haggard looking miners in tattered clothes, with some half naked, emerged from the dark tunnels of the mine looking dirty and confused.
She recommended an immediate closure of collum mine to protect human life.
There was confusion at the mine where Mrs. Simango made an impromptu visit to ascertain reports of Zambian workers being subjected to slave conditions.
The minister and her entourage were prevented from touring the pit mine where more than 120 locals, mainly young people, are employed.
There was a 30 minute showdown with a group of more than ten Chinese investors who resisted repeated orders by District Commissioner, Laiven Apuleni to either allow the minister visit the mine or have the miners brought to surface so that they could met her.
In an open show of defiance, the investors walked out on the minister’s entourage, refusing to issue instructions to miners underground to come to up to the ground.
This was despite being reminded that they were not dealing with an ordinary person but a government minister.
In the heated argument that ensued, one of the Chinese men cut off a telephone line to paralyse communication with the underground.
This provoked Sinazongwe constituency Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD)Chairman, Simon Chali to ask police and government officers to take on the Chinese man but he quickly disappeared to join his colleagues who were watching the situation from some distance.
In the unfolding drama, another Chinese openly challenged a police officer in full view of Mrs Simango to arrest him if he wished before locking the main room housing communication equipment as the minister’s delegation looked on helplessly.
However, the Chinese investors were beaten to the game when Mr Chali and some security officers discovered a way of sending a message to the underground miners after being tipped by some locals.
They sounded an alarm concealed behind the locked room, provoking the miners underground to abandon digging coal and troop to the surface, thinking there was impending danger.
As the miners, most of them barefooted and half naked, emerged from the dark tunnel in a confused state Mrs Simango broke down after being overwhelmed by sympathy and pain at their sight.
This did not however move the investors who kept talking to themselves in Chinese while taking note of the miners who were explaining the situation to the minister.
As this was not enough, one Chinese official held a television camera belonging to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and wrestled with cameraman Lastrous Mulenga as he attempted to film the pathetic mine environment.
ZNBC Reporter, Luckson Nthani equally had a tough time when he was prevented from carrying out interviews with some mine workers.
When it became apparent that the investors would not succumb to orders, the minister abandoned her bid to tour the underground mine.
But speaking to reporters before leaving the mine, she asked the ministry of mines to justify why the Chinese owned coal mine should not be closed.
She said the total disregard for mine safety and open display of lack of respect for authority clearly showed that the country was dealing with wrong investors.
“ The workers are kept like pigs and subjected in a dangerous environment. They are kicked and beaten as though they are not human beings. They work without helmets, overalls, boots and masks. If injured they are not taken to hospital but left to nurse themselves at their homes”, said Mrs Simango.
She said what she saw was shocking and dehumanizing to the extent that one would imagine that this was not in Zambia.
Mrs. Simango said government would not allow Zambians to work like slaves in their own country.
The minister said while the country needed investors for the economic good, abuse of workers would not be tolerated and that people would not support investors exhibiting hate towards the owners of the country.
DC Laiven Apuleni said his office had for along time been inundated by complaints over the slaver working conditions at the private coal mine.
He said few weeks ago, he led a delegation of government workers to try and hold talks with the investors.
“ What happened was shocking. When he arrived, they ushered us into a room saying we are coming. We were abandoned for two hours, only to be told that all the Chinese men had jumped into their vehicles and left the mine.
As we left for the BOMA, we found them at Sinazeze drinking beer in a jovial mood”, said Mr Apuleni.
He said the collum mine issue was beyond the capacity of his office to handle and that was why he had sought the indulgency of the provincial minister.
Mr Apuleni said the mine management had refused to adhere to their statutory obligations such as taking their workers periodically for medical examinations.
He said because miners were exposed to a dangerous environment, many of them were at risk of contracting respiratory infections but their health could only be protected if they underwent medical examinations.