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Zambia president orders crackdown on mine investors

Published by MAC on 2006-09-27

Zambia president orders crackdown on mine investors

by Minign Weekly, South Africa

27th September 2006

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has ordered the arrest and prosecution of investors in the country's copper mines who are breaking labour laws, officials and state-owned media said over the weekend.

The decision is widely seen as a move to placate angry miners in the country's Copperbelt region ahead of September 28 presidential elections.

Mwanawasa said Zambia would no longer allow investors to employ workers on a part-time basis for more than three months, the state-owned Sunday Times of Zambia newspaper quoted Mwanawasa as saying.

"Casualisation (part-time job offers) beyond three months is a crime because it is against the law of Zambia. You will be arrested and prosecuted for flouting labour laws," the newspaper quoted him as saying at a campaign rally in Chingola, 400 km (250 miles) north of Lusaka, on Saturday.

This was the first time since mines were privatised in 2000 that Mwanawasa, who is under criticism from labour leaders and the opposition for allowing investors to pay poor wages to Zambian miners, spoke out strongly against foreign investors.

His remarks come in the wake of threats by his main presidential rival, Michael Sata, to chase away Chinese investors in the country's copper mines. Sata has accused Chinese investors of exploiting Zambian workers by paying them low wages.

The Zambian president's remarks were confirmed by his chief campaign manager, Vernon Mwaanga, a former information minister.

"The president was quite upset and he wants them to change things immediately because casualisation of labour is illegal," Mwaanga said.

The restive Copperbelt region of Zambia has recently been the scene of violent protests by workers who are unhappy with what labour unions and opposition leaders describe as "poor pay and conditions of service."

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