Zambian miners crush a Chinese manager to death. Remember that when Beijing boasts about its ‘win-win’ African parternships – by David Blair (The Telegraph – August 6th, 2012)

Suppose a manager of a British mining company picked up a gun and opened fire on his African workforce? What if the company concerned paid its Zambian miners less than the legal minimum wage? Suppose relations on the shop floor became so poisonous that furious workers chose to crush a manager to death?
If a British-based mining house like Anglo American or Rio Tinto had experienced any of this, I strongly suspect that popular protest would have overwhelmed the company concerned, sending its share price into free-fall and casting its very future into doubt.
Yet all of the above has happened at a Chinese-owned mine in Zambia. When workers at Collum coal mine protested about poor wages and working conditions in 2010, their Chinese managers responded by opening fire with live rounds. In fairness, they were not shooting to kill: no one actually died, but 11 of the miners suffered bullet wounds.
The Chinese argued they were acting in self defence, and Beijing made clear that should charges be pressed against them, bilateral relations would suffer. Zambia, unable to stand up to its biggest foreign investor, duly caved in: no criminal case was ever brought against the managers.
This year, protests at Collum have continued, spurred by the fact that its Chinese owners pay their employees less than the national minimum wage for shopworkers. On Saturday, the miners crushed a 50-year-old Chinese manager to death with a trolley.
So the next time you next read of a multi-billion dollar deal between China and a poor African country, think of what has happened at Collum mine. While Beijing likes to claim that it forges “win-win partnerships” with African nations, the reality is that one side tends to win a great deal more than the other. The outlines of these agreements are always similar: China promises to build lots of useful infrastructure, particularly roads and railways, in return for privileged access to the country’s natural resources.
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