Zambia’s unacceptable levels of Chinese unskilled labour

By Laura Miti

The National Constitutional Convention is currently going on at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, in Lusaka. Citizens all over the country are holding thumbs praying that sooner rather than later, this protracted process that has gobbled up insane amounts in taxpayers’ money will be put to bed. The kind of money the constitution review process has used up, carelessly and uneconomically, is actually one for the history books. This has been a criminally wasteful procedure since President Levy Mwanawasa engineered it to be as unending as possible.  Every administration after that has continued to ensure that the constitutional review process is useful only to silence immediate demands by citizens. Meanwhile, it has continually been designed to never compromise subsequent governments’ unyielding quest to continue ruling via the flawed document that places interest of politicians before that of citizens.

Of course, citizens pray not only that the unnecessarily long money wasting roadmap, whose end even now is known only by State house, reaches its conclusion.  More importantly, the earnest, collective supplication directed heavenwards is that the end to this meandering, start and stop path we have been on will deliver the kind of document that will change Zambia for the better for ever.

But it is not really the constitution convention I want to talk about today. Rather, it is something that came to my attention because of that gathering. The matter exercising my mind this morning is that of how many Chinese nationals are apparently holding menial jobs in the country.

You see, I happened to visit someone who is a delegate to the constitutional convention and is, with a couple hundred other delegates, accommodated at the New Golden Peacock Hotel on Kasangula Road, in Roma. Boy, was I shocked at the number of Chinese people doing very basic jobs in that hotel!

From what I could see, the hotel is employing Chinese waiters, bartenders, even guards at the gate. My question is why, how? Are we issuing work permits to Chinese nationals to come and cook Nshima?

I ask because the nshima I ordered was brought to the table by a Chinese waiter.

Now let me quickly hasten to say that I am no xenophobe. I well understand that in this global village we now inhabit, labour, like capital, travels freely and lands in corners far away from “its home.” I really have no problems with skilled non-Zambians competing for and taking up high end jobs in Zambia if we do not have the personnel for them.

I cannot, though, accept that in this country where millions of young, able-bodied people with basic, and many times tertiary, education are unemployed, we would allow basic positions to be filled by the Chinese. Isn’t government supposed to protect these jobs for citizens in order to reduce the massive poverty and unemployment statistics? Forget statistics, shouldn’t government be doing its damnest to ensure that every job that can be done by a Zambian is made available to them so that a few hundred more citizens can have their sorry lives dignified by work.

My question is how are the Chinese coming here to work as guards getting the work permits they require? What story did the Golden Peacock cook up to convince an immigration officer that they needed expatriate bartenders, waiters and supervisors? As things stand, given our policies that allow free flow of profits generated by “investors” out of the country, it is safe to assume that apart from a large amount of the money Zambia is spending on accommodating delegates to the constitutional convention making its way to China, even the little that could remain in salaries is taken out by cooks and waiters.

My oh my! I better end.

Yes, I have avoided belabouring that little matter about how President Sata and the PF executed an acrobatic about-turn deserving of an Olympic gold medal regarding their campaign promises to deal with the Chinese unskilled-labour situation.  The Golden Peacock is, of course, a great example of this. All I will say is it is time the PF reconsidered this question. It is time to institute polices that give the 20-year old Mwansa, Mabvuto and Mundia, currently sitting around in Chawama somewhere, an outside chance at holding a basic job in their own motherland.


  • comment-avatar
    Pony 5 years

    As a Chinese working in Zambia ,I would like to say something after reading this report.
    First,why lots of chinese companies like hiring chinese people?
    Actually,the costs of hiring a chinese worker is at least ten times more than hiring a zambian worker.Is is just because all the chinese bosses in zambia are so stupid that they don’t know how to cut the cost?In the depth of there heart,they really want to hire as many zambian workers as possible and hire less chinese to reduce cost.But in some cases,they have no better choice.
    As someone mentioned above,I really think zambian have a very poor and lazy work culture,my zambian driver would refuse to work overtime after 17 hours in the afternoon even if i promise to pay extra allowance,saying that it time to relax rather than working though in fact he is very poor.It is unimaginable in china,since chinese people can work even 24 hours or longer just in order to finish a project on time as long as they can earn extra money,or sometimes even though they can not get extra payment,just do it out of responsibility.That is the most noticible difference between the Zambian and Chinese workers.Besides hard-working,the chinese workers are also more loyal,skillful and relialbe than the zambian workers.This is my personal point of view,but the general mindset of most chinese employers in zambia.
    Workers,being hard-working ,skillful and loyal is crucial to the success of a project especially those complicated,large-scaled,time-limited projects.Perhaps that is why in lots of cases,projects done by chinese contractors are fast and good but if done by local zambian contractor,delayed and problematic.

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    lion king 5 years

    Let people have freedom to employ who they want Maybe this hotel is a family bussiness and those people were family members ?????!!!

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    lion king 5 years

    Maybe chinese workers are more honest than zambian bar tenders..I have had a few and profits went down…….And chinese probably dont run to the labour office for every small issue .. this wastes time….
    there are probably a thousand good reasons… But in a way I do not like chinese because they are colonising our country and Africa.. As there are toooo many to send back to china..

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    Kozo 5 years

    No problem with the chinese where working is concerned. But let them leave the country when their contract expires. Do not spoil our breed with chinise breed.

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    Scott 5 years

    Which Chinese restaurants have black or Eastern European waiters in England?
    Must be the lowest of the low

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    It’s fun to find out something new. Not everything was clear to me, but I am so glad that enlightened my thoughts.

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    Mojito 5 years


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    Blackwater 5 years

    We would like to thank China for Tazara and again we thank you China for Tazara.

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    Malubeni 5 years

    Dear Laura Miti,

    Zambians serve Chinese foods in Chinese restaurants in some parts of the world. Butecheries and Bakeries employ foreigners in several European countries and no one is complaining. Maybe those Chinese have applied for citizenship and therefore are elligible to work in Zambia. We have one Zimbabwean women serving as a Cabinet Minister so what the hec.. !

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      robin owens 5 years

      Malubeni, in Europe (eg England) they employ Eastern Europeans because they are cheap! In Zambia we have high levels of unemployment among people with catering qualifications! it is unacceptable to let Zambians be like that! first employ all Zambians. Only professional people can be employed for specific period of time.

      whoever is issuing work permits should be taken to task

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    SFZ 5 years

    Friends, the Chinese maybe classified as a bad people because of maybe some cheap (not fake)products are meant to make the poor look rich as well.

    These people have been good friends for Zambia Africa and the world over. They have been here training our local people in some skills such as bricklaying, carpentry, painting and in general building science.

    These people have always helped even our government meet the millennium development goals in the areas say of education, health and transport – They initially started by building all these structures even before government paid but our government has been a let down because it doesn’t honour its pledges in time for the construction works.

    Friends note that I am writing this from a construction point of view.

    Let us support the Chinese in their dealings particularly the area of construction as is the basis by which we shall be measured as to how much wealthy we are.

    My appeal to our government is to pay contractors on time as this is affecting our employers (CHINESE) and our families to a much lrger extent.


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    Deep Thinker 5 years

    This is one for the youths and unemployed. One of my most enduring memories before the last election is that of hordes of hungry, unemployed and unkempt youths on the streets singing ‘Change e change e tulefwaya change e, change e change e tulefwaya change e’ and I kept thinking yes you will get that change but certainly not for the better as long as you vote in PF. Here we are down the line, with all that ‘Chinamen this chainamen that’ rhetoric from Sata, and the Chinese invasion has just began. Enjoy the ride folks.

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    Skeleton 5 years

    Breeding space, increasing the chinese population in Zambia because China is over populated and had one child policy per family.
    Now Zambia has become their breeding area. Imagin, the Chinese population is over 1.3 billion, and thats just in China.
    Wait until Zambia is taken over, its a new colonialism of breeding massively in power countries and take over.
    Open your eyes, soon the country will be owned by aliens!

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    Afri2 wil nt develop bcoz we dnt understand the capitalist system veri wel. China hs folowed the west by creating jobs 4 their pipo abroad. This is done by signing development agreements in which african countries r 2 recieve aid in exchange 4 investment oportunities 2 foreign companies.some of the conditions r zat these companies that invest in zambia shud be alowd 2 come with their human resource hence the influx of so many chinese working in zambia.this scenario hs led 2 huge unemployment in zambia and many other developing nations bcoz even job that dont need specialisd skils r gven 2 foreigners. Pit for our country and africa at large bcause of this web of capitalism that hs disadvantagd us so mch

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    These Chocholiz re right in our Villages trading.Power lies in pipo not SATA.We can put a stop to this.Sinazongwe style

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    nevers 5 years

    Even if we are lazy, this is our country. We shall have the jobs and we shall share and bear the fruits and thorns of our work ethics. No, waiters, making nshima and washing our backs, no, no, never.

    Presido, PLEASE stop this nonsense.

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      Muntu 5 years

      Without them how u gone share the fruit and share w nsima yankoukou stupid foolish muntu, let them work and follow the standard we are lazy and we have to improve our selfs before talking. Shut up

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    Shetani 5 years

    Madam Miti, the President is on record saying that Zambians are lazy and he would prefer to employ efficient and hardworking Chinese. If he can say that, what would Chinese employers in Zambia do if given half a chance?

    The President has also created 119,000 jobs in the arts (singing “Donchi Kubeba” maybe?). Those youths (Mwansa, Mabvuto and Mundia in Chawama)have full time employment as artists. If they are not yet employed, rest assured that they will be very soon – building motorways with cobblestones across the country as the Romans did. Just chill!

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    Chinese are assets zambians are liabilities.given to construct a stadium kwa hae u dont even know where to start from,given to construct roads u take decades just accept twabulishafye isukulu instead of yapping nd complaing.these are long term effects of leakages in zed schools-danderheads.

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    obama 5 years

    I’m not Chinese nor am I a zambian. But one thing for sure is that given an opportunity I would rather employ a chinese over lazy zambians! The work culture here is pathetic! The moment the boss or supervisor is out of site, they down their tools and its story time! Every other day there is “malilo”. God knows how many times their father or mother dies! Its just ridiculous.

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    Sata won the elections by false pretense. He lied to win the election. He used to insult chinese day And night but now with out any shame he is praising the chinese. What a president any some of us know the this man inside out that he say thing that he does not in belief in

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    Martin 5 years

    Laura my experiences with many Zambians have left me to think twice about working with them. Most of the zambians are on the get rich quickly ‘sebane wikute’ and all the schemes they come up with. Try constructing a house using a zambian you will appreciate the chinese…as for the restaurant business engage a zambian? Sick leave every day if not attending a funeral…oneday we will wake up and find noone wants to hire us.

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    Bob 5 years

    The president confessed at the BOAO conference that Zambia was creating jobs for the Chinese, thereby helping the Chinese government fight its problem of unemployment. But ba Sata, he is solving the unemployment problem for the Chinese leaving us Zambians wallowing in joblessness. This is not on.

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    Ngilingindo 5 years

    thats what the pf govt is going to china for..they need to get serious expatriates..

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    The Servant 5 years

    I passed by that hotel today and a friend commented by saying that sooner than later we shall have 20 million chinese in this country because they nomally bring their whole families when given an opportunity. There is an opportunity now for the Chinese to just bring anybody they wish. ‘God help us’

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      lol 5 years

      how many Chinese family you have seen in our country. i am surprised that almost all Chinese men can stay here for a long time without their family.

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    things fall apart 5 years

    spot on my lady. by the way laura how do i get to see u? u a one in a million ladies.

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    Obviously SATA had no intentions of implimenting all that campagn retoric,needless to say all what was on his mind,was to taste the nshima cooked in state house.
    For our poor un-employed youths,tough luck boys.You are paying for your kwalola umwela atitude.You voted for pf and now it`s time for you to pay the price.Just join the cadres used in fights during by elections,maybe then you can get something out of PF.sebana wikute!!!
    The president even has the balls to say he is helping fight un employment in china by giving all big contracts to chines firms.what a dsigrace of a president.Nshima from state house has not satisfied him yet. Bulls eye!!!!

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    Kr 5 years

    We are killing our own children with both hands, just to protect chines to breed and fill this country. At the end of the day they will turn against us cos they will be in the majority as for us who have killed our own children due to starvation and lucky of jobs, will be too old and in the minority to fight the chines out of our country. 50 yrs from now we shall have a chines president in Zambia. Watch out your kindness will one day kill you, akuti chifundo chi napa nkwale.

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    Bushma 5 years

    Are we issuing work permits to Chinese nationals to come and cook Nshima?
    Why not go to the USA in China town you will see that almost all of the staff are chinese in Hotels. even in South Africa and Kenya this is the case, So open your Hotel in chain and get unskilled zambain to do the work if you so wish remember its a free world. Laura your order was for Nshima with Bush meat at a Chinese Hotel shame on you.

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      Zedman 5 years

      Yuo fool those chinese in the USA are citizens. Try and get a work permit to work as a waiter in Europe and the USA in this economic doenturn and they will send you packing back to Africa

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        Edward Mumba 5 years

        Zedman, no they get a visa to come and study and whilst there get a job as a waiter

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    Nm 5 years

    I think before criticizing these Chinese, we should also try to find out why they are doing that. I find the working habits of many Zambians to be very ….I once worked as a supervisor for casual workers for one of the companies and to say the truth most of them do not want to work hard but at the same time just want to get a lot of money for their beers and the many girl friends. So for the china man when they come here, they know why they are here… to make money. so in some instances you find that their work culture is so different from us: they work very hard for longer hours, therefore end up being in conflict with the locals who are used to taking everything cool. therefore to avoid conflict with the government, they prefer getting their own people. I can assure you that with this attitude of NI CHEKELEKO this country can never prosper. And finally go to RSA, UK, USA you will find Zambians there sweeping rooms, cooking even selling in bars while they are locals there complaining of lack of jobs.

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    Matanda Moses 5 years

    One of the Major reasons Sata was invited to China recently is to Silence him on his negative attitude towards Chinese.Our Zambian Labour Laws are VERY weak.That why we have an influx on un equalified foreigners.Most of them are Chinese and Indians.Institutions such as the Engineering Institute of Zambia,dont perform their duties.They are Suppose to visit work places to check on who is practicing Engineering.However,their main pre occupation is to recieve subscription funds from Members.In my view,Kambwili was going to make a better Labour minister than Rubberstamp Shamenda.We need Strong Labour Laws to Provide better Jobs for Zambian in order to foster development.

    • comment-avatar

      I totally concur with you. The company I work is full of foreigners mostly from Philippine who are doing jobs that does not require foreigners. They are paid hefty salaries which make zambian employees salary look like school allownce to buy sweets in comparison. Most of them have no qualifications and experiance to talk home about.

      Some workers reported the case to pf govt labour ministry. Labour officers came to the company but were handsomely bribed and the case died agonizing natural death.

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    Zambia is ours but the money does not belong to us.Africa will be ruled by china not long from now,any structures like hotels and other economic entities are welcome for the well being of our mother land Zambia.

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    Zangata 5 years

    How sad the PF promise that if elected, they will put a stop to issuing work permits to “quitionable expatriates” has been thrown out of the window. At Kansashi, it is rumoured they have expatriate bus drivers, with work permits issued by the PF of all parties.

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    Those that believed sata are fools not just fools but pathetic fools (pf )

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    Chief Advisor 5 years

    Africa, my Africa!the china man is here to rule, politicians wont manage to deal with this scourge, it requires a collective efforts of the labour wonders what happened to the zambianisation committee

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    Kaufella, 5 years

    Mr Miti, Is there something the Chinese know that we dont.?? This should answer your question, with all the knowledge you have , writting this fine article, do some research.

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      Nm 5 years

      Nice one Kaufella, guess this is what we should be looking at and not just rushing to pass restrictive laws.

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    Joseph 5 years

    Good article Laura. Some jobs are supposed to go to locals. Our economy will never pick up with massive unemployment deliberately created by law makers.

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    form four 5 years