LUSAKA (Reuters) – Dangote Cement’s Zambian subsidiary has sued the country’s labour minister for libel and slander after he accused an executive of the Nigerian company of attempting to bribe him.
A row has been brewing between Zambia and Dangote Cement, a major employer in Africa’s second-largest copper producer, after the government minister made the allegations in September.
Dangote said in papers filed in court that the minister had created an impression that the company was exploiting Zambian workers and enticing government officials with bribes.
“The plaintiff has been brought into public scandal and its reputation has been injured,” Dangote said in a writ of summons dated Oct. 10.
The dispute appears to be the latest in a string of incidents in which the southern African nation’s government has resorted to strong-arm or unorthodox tactics against foreign investors it believes are circumventing labour laws.
Dangote Industries Zambia (DIZ) has 400 workers building a $400 million cement plant, a staff count that should rise to 2,000 when production starts in November.
During a tour of the plant in Ndola, 300 km (188 miles) north of the capital Lusaka, Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda said a Nigerian executive seconded to the Zambian unit tried to bribe him at a hotel.
The company described the allegations as “malicious misinformation” and denied the corruption and bribery claims.
A year ago, Zambia revoked the work permit of the chief executive of Konkola Copper Mines, owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources, and threatened to rip up its mining licence when the firm announced plans to lay off 1,500 workers.