Confusion about the new minimum wage law and tensions between workers and management lie behind the death of a Chinese mining boss in August.
The killing of Wu Shenzai on 4 August and the wounding of his two compatriots by Zambian mine workers demanding the implementation of the newly revised minimum wage were widely condemned throughout Zambia. Wu, a 50-year-old manager at Collum Coal Mine, died after mine workers crushed him with a trolley as he tried to flee underground to escape a wage riot in one of the most dramatic clashes yet between Chinese managers and their local employees. Mine workers had organised a protest at what they saw as delays by Collum in adopting a new revised minimum wage. In fact, the new law, which came into force on 4 July, applies only to domestic, shop and general workers. Union members are not affected as their pay is negotiated by collective bargaining with employers.
President Michael Sata's opponents lambasted his Patriotic Front government for the lack of a clear policy on labour relations with Chinese companies and the failure to deliver on the pre-election populist pledges that ushered the PF into power last September. The opposition is calling for the resignation of Labour and Social Security Minister Fackson Shamenda, whom they hold responsible for the mass confusion surrounding the revised minimum wage law.
Sata, also known as 'King Cobra', won last year's elections on a platform of holding foreign investors to account, improving the lives of workers and creating one million new jobs but is struggling to fulfil his manifesto. On 4 August, his public appearance at the Agriculture and Commercial Show, also graced by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, was rapidly curtailed after young protestors heckled and booed Sata, pursuing him around the stands, demanding jobs and more money in their pockets.