LUSAKA Minister Bowman Lusambo yesterday confronted Chinese investors at a Chongwe Mall for inhumane treatment of their workers, who are fired for fainting in the poorly ventilated building among other ills.
The Chinese managers, at the China town shopping Mall, were surprised to find the Lusaka minister at their door demanding to talk to the owners.
Mr Lusambo, with his entourage of journalists, poured into the manager’s office where the workers recounted the harsh conditions under which they work, such as being fired for being sick or fainting due to the poor ventilation in the building.
The fearful workers told the minister that they were not allowed to attend to family issues including funerals and anyone who dared to be ‘sick’ was fired and there was no halleluiah (church) allowed . “If you faint because of the heat in here, you get fired because it means you are weak,” one of the workers said.
The minister listened in disbelief while the shop owners, who seemed lost with the language, fidgeted uneasily.
And the workers have been working without signing any contract, an infringment on their rights because the K850 monthly they get was below the proposed minimum wage.
Mr Lusambo said the labour laws that were in China were not different from Zambia therefore investors should respect the local labour laws.
He appealed to the workers to speak out when things are not in their favour.
The minister has since directed Chongwe district commissioner Frazier Mwansa to ensure that workers signed a contract for them to have better conditions.
He also directed the managers of the mall to reinstate fired workers and ensure that the building had proper ventilation and a conducive working environment.
“When you are mistreating these people you are mistreating the President and me as a politician because here in Zambia we allow people to go to the hospital, to pray and to attend to family problems,” said Mr Lusambo.
And China mall manager Zhangchat Yan said it was not true that workers were being fired, but were not bringing medical report each time they fell sick.
Meanwhile the National Housing Authority (NHA) was yesterday found wanting for having allocated a plot to a private individual without regard to the reserve sewer line and power lines.
This came to light when Mr Lusambo summoned officials from Lusaka City Council, NHA, ZESCO and the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) for a site visit to the Casanova plot which was demolished by an angry mob on Thursday.
The developer, a Mr Jere, had encroached on both ZESCO and LWSC land by building on the reserve land for a sewer line and attaching his wall fence to the power sub station.
NHA chief executive officer Waicha Ndlovu acknowledged the land belonged to NHA but it that the institution did not support the encroachment and would engage the developer to resolve the matter.
LWSC manager Jonathan Kampata said their land reserve had been encroached by the developer despite sewer line diversion.
Zesco regional manager Lusaka East region Allan Kapeso said the utility company was not consulted and was opposed to the encroachment on its property.