President Rupiah Banda on Thursday urged Zambians not to condemn Chinese managers for shooting 12 workers at Maamba Collum coal mine, saying other people also shoot their employees.
“Let’s be careful that we do not single out people. Every day people are shot at by Zambians, whites, Americans. This business of ‘Chinese, Chinese’, we should not create a phobia against people,” Banda said.
The two Chinese nationals have been charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting randomly at Zambian miners who protested poor working conditions at their Chinese-run mine last Friday.
Main opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front and some civil society organisations have condemned the shooting and accused Banda of protecting the Chinese.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the managers of the private company had “mistakenly hurt several local workers”, while promising to cooperate with Zambia on the case.
Banda said that because Lusaka offers a favourable investment climate it was clear that many foreign investors would come to Zambia, which could result in violation of labour laws.
He insisted that he did not support the shooting, and said investors including the Chinese should respect the country’s laws.
“I don’t like what happened there and the law is definitely taking its course. They must follow labour laws,” Banda said.
Investment from China has been on the rise in Zambia, with several copper and coal mines bought by Chinese firms.
Africa has seen a wave of Chinese investment, despite criticism in the West that Beijing was blatantly ignoring human rights abuses, and environment and corruption issues in some countries as it lunges for the continent’s resources.
China pumped 9.3 billion dollars into Africa by the end of 2009, a government report said last week, and Chinese officials have vowed the push would continue.