Zambian netizens have weighed in on the quarrel involving the former Labour Minister Chishimba Kambwili, the Chief Medical Officer of the Chinese-run Sino-Zam Friendly Hospital in the mining region of the Copperbelt and the Chinese Ambassador to Zambia. The hospital was once owned by the state mining conglomerate, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) before it was broken up and its assets privatised.
Kambwili who served as Foreign Minister in the first ruling Patriotic Front government cabinet before he was transferred to the Labour Ministry, ordered the revocation of the Chief Medical Officer Xisheng Quing’s work permit for allegedly mistreating workers at the hospital and exhibiting rude behaviour to the minister. The Chief Medical Officer complained that the minister was rude for pointing a finger at him while talking.
Kambwili is now Minister of Sports, Youth and Gender after President Sata moved the Labour portfolio to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao was quoted as saying that Kambwili must be moderate in handling labour-related matters concerning foreign investors in Zambia, further saying that there was only one party in Africa, Zambia’s Patriotic Front, that made China an issue.
Ambassador Zhou said:
I do not know why this is so, because Chinese input in Africa is the largest among all African countries but the approval rate of China by Zambia is the lowest among all African countries. That doesn't mean China is doing the worst in Zambia. There is only one political party (PF) in Africa that makes China an issue.
Netizens on various online platforms were divided in their reaction to Kambwili’s behaviour at the hospital with some supporting his actions and others disapproving.
Samfya Mafia, in a rather lengthy comment on Lusaka Times, had this to say:
Dear Minister of Labor,
May I begin by congratulating you on your recent appointment and your gallant effort in trying to restore normal work conditions in the mining industry.
In light of the recent events at Sinozam Friendly Hospital, I have a few concerns, which I would like to bring to your attention.
It is possible, for anyone to write a letter to you making allegations against their employers. Did, the authors of the letters you received append their names, so you could be able to properly verify these allegations? If they did not indicate their names, which is comprehensible, did you then give the alleged contraveners of Labor law an opportunity to explain themselves? Our Employment Act gives heavy emphasis on the observance of natural Justice when dealing with a person against whom allegations have been made. If you did indeed give the other party an opportunity to be heard was it in a free and fair environment, furthermore, did you actually give them a chance to speak and on your part listen to their explanation?
Sir, you have a great task ahead of you. Being one of the people who were present at the Hospital on the fateful day, I could see that the environment was emotionally charged, and it appears that it was very easy for you to fall for playing to the Gallery. However, as a leader you have to hold your calm and not allow yourself to be influenced by only the emotions of the people, you will have to more importantly ensure that the allegations when made are substantiated.
In a Facebook post, Musamba Chama Mumba wrote:
Well, well now the Chinese Ambassador Zhou challenges Hon Chishimba Kambwili to pick 10 Zambian Companies and 10 Chinese owned, then compare the wages paid to workers. Sort your house first before you point fingers at others? My question is why then do you come into our country disguised as investors and excepted to certain taxes when in fact you are nothing but ordinary locals? And please learn when to open your mouth, because Hon Kambwili Chishimba has the backing of many Zambians on this one.
In a response to Mumba’s post, Milimo Mutale wrote:
I remember so many delegations going to China wooing these investors and granting them the incentives. We invite them because we want their money. We sell our companies for a song and benefit personally so our hands are tied. We need to sort out our mess for sure. Fire non performing civil servants. Begin to enforce all laws across the board. Scrutinize so called investors and give them the talk before while and after they set up- that we will not tolerate labour abuse or shoddy work. That their work is subject to regulation and inspection. Its time to act! And act by permanent solutions and when the investors still violates enter the minister on a white steed . To the rescue! Lol
Joe Chilaizya – if his is a genuine profile, he is Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation director-general – wrote:
How much do we pay our own workers??? Look at how abused domestic workers, farm laborers are in Zambia at the hands of fellow Zambians….We must be THE standard ourselves because foreigners will only pay according to the standard they find….Its so easy to blame chinese investors on this matter, but they are only doing what the “romans” (in Zambia) do – abuse workers!…..for instance how many Zambians employed by zambians on this forum can say they are adequately paid? Almost none!!!!…..Thats the tragic tale! We cheapen our own skilled labour when we offer it low salaries and wages. Foreign investors only pay what WE ZAMBIANS pay our fellow citizens.
On Twitter, @missbwalya wrote:
@missbwalya: Nice to know that Kambwili is willing to die for Zambian workers. This guy is an attention seeking clown. #Zambia
@BradleysEvents: #Kambwili had the interests of the Zambians at heart but his work methods were tottally wrong. He was not diplomatic & lacked ettiquett
@BradleysEvents: #Kambwili works thru militancy & forcefulness. He won't change, he will take those ills with him to the ministry of sport & youth
@ssepiso: Things not looking pretty for Chishimba Kambwili. Trying too hard to impress as Labour Minister and ends up misrepresenting #Sata. #Zambia
On the issue of the minister pointing finger at the medical officer, @zadama24 said:
@zadama24: “Mr Kambwili the Chinese may mistake the finger pointing for a Karate or Kungfu move!” bit.ly/ziViIB
President Sata later cautioned ministers to stick to procedure and respect investors as well. Ironically, the PF issued the most anti-Chinese rhetoric among opposition parties before last year’s elections which ousted the MMD after 20 years in power.