The inflows of Chinese – Asians all over the African continent has been a blessing in disguise for many African economies especially those former communists African countries. Many political commentators and leaders alike have called this scramble for African valuable resources as a new invasion, a new fair trade arrangement and another colonization of the African continent.
It is on record that these Asian – Chinese are ignoring African Labour laws especially in Namibia, those laws that govern investment policies in Africa.
In Namibia, at Katima Mulilo, a resort town which is 1,300 km from the capital, Windhoek, it is also alleged that most workers in Chinese retail businesses are poorly paid with some taking home as little as N$ 300 per month as their monthly salary without even an employment contract.
What aggravates the situation is the fact that there is currently no law prescribing minimum wages for the retail industry in Namibia.Most of the labour –related complaints and cases being reported to the office of unions and the mother Ministry of Labour involve cases which have to do with Chinese breaching the Namibian Labour Act.
According to a report complied by the Ministry of Labour, most cases reported involves unfair dismissal, non-payment of wages and unauthorized deductions from innocent poor employees’ meager salaries by their Chinese employers.
According to a survey carried by the Caprivi Vision in Katima Mulilo town, it was confirmed that most Chinese workers earn a monthly salary of N$ 300.They explained that there was no single benefit to enjoy from the Chinese employers.
“My brother, our monthly salary is N$ 300 and we have nothing of hide and our government is silent and can not solve this problem. These employers (Chinese) don’t see us as people but rather as useless animals,” an aggrieved employee explained on condition of anonymity
Many employees interviewed also revealed that some of their colleagues are fired overnight, usually without giving them some reasons and notices.
“In the case where there are losses and shortfalls in every Chinese shop all over the country, these shortfalls are often deducted from our salaries.We have no option because the SWAPO led government is not coming with concrete solutions,” explained a disgruntled worker.
Meanwhile, the Caprivi Vision established that all of the employees in Chinese shops are not registered with the Social Security Commission (SSC) as required by the Namibian labour laws. While some of the workers were at least happy to be employed but the salaries were far too low as compared to some Indians business people elsewhere in the region. It was also discovered that these Chinese business people are deducting an amount of money which they claim is meant for the Social Security yet there had no cards to prove their membership.
This year, A Member of Parliament who is also the Deputy Minister of Justice Hon. Tommy Nambahu once raised a motion in the Parliament last year about the Chinese not paying Value Added Tax (VAT) to the government. The Member of Parliament questioned the legality of the Chinese investment in Namibia. He asked the government to look into the case but it seems nothing came out since he raised this motion .
The general public is worried and blames the government for not taking action since the Chinese came to invest in Namibia. They are questioning on what kind of investment these Asian Chinese are bringing to the economy. Apart from that, it is suspected that they go back home (China) after six months with all the money leaving Namibia without any form of returns in terms of taxes.
“The government is more loyal to Chinese not workers.We are suffering for the Chinese people while getting slave wages, unfair labour practices, poor living conditions and allegations of physical beatings. What does our government do to monitor the situation on the ground,” a worker at ABC building in Katima Mulilo lambasted.
Disgruntled workers confirmed to this publication that at certain times they are not allowed to go for lunch.
“Instead our employer buys us lunch and it will be in the form of fat cooks or bread with a sweet aid to mix with water as a drink,” she explained
In an effort to gather accurate facts, the Caprivi Vision contacted some of the Katima Mulilo Chinese employers and explained that the salaries they pay to their workers was uniform and as stipulated in the employment contract. The owner of David Shop who only identified himself as Jian Zhong had this to say;
“I have an existing contract with our workers and we have agreed on the salaries and other benefits. I pay Social Security Commission (SSC) for them every month including some lunch everyday. Bonus is in the form of a commission and their salaries differ on a monthly basis depending on the sales.They also get a commission in every sale but if there is a shortfall, I have no choice but to deduct my money over a certain period of time as agreed. Even to my colleagues who come to invest here, I have photocopied a copy of the Namibian Constitution and translated it into Chinese so that they can understand it,” explained the Chairperson of Chinese,” he said
Another Chinese who identified herself as “Paulina” to this journalist explained that her shop was ever busy therefore can not allow her workers to break for lunch.
“You see there are many customers in this shop, how can I allow them to go for lunch. My things will be stolen and cannot allow. I pay for their lunch everyday and they have to eat inside the shop.What is the purpose of going out for lunch when the same lunch is meant for one to eat? That’s why I decided to buy for them and eat here,” she explained
Asked whether she was observing the Namibian labour laws, Paulina explained that all was above board.
“I’m paying their Social Security every month and this is not from their salaries. Of course their basic salaries are N$ 250 to N$ 300 depending on the workers.New workers start at N$ 250 per month and after serving probation, they will be receiving one notch to N$ 300 per month. We usually pay them N$ 20 if they work during holidays as well. Our contract is agreed mutually and all workers sign this contract upon coming here,” she explained
Paulina has five shops in Katima Mulilo town and every shop has 6 workers.
The Director for Labour Services in the Ministry of Labour and Welfare, Felix Musukubili explained to the Caprivi Vision that as a ministry, they only deal with labour related matters as complaints reach their offices.
“We were in Rundu in August and we have gathered all the concerns of that region.The Deputy Minister of Labour was also present in this meeting.So it is up to the workers in Katima Mulilo to forward us with a petition and if it reaches my desk, then we can call for a meeting for the Katima Mulilo Chinese workers to hear their grievances. Rundu community called us and as a Ministry we addressed their concerns with regard to their grievances, obligations of employees and others. Currently, there are no minimum wages in the retail industry. In Katima Mulilo, there is no petition so far from these disgruntled workers and we would not know. If there are issues, we are forced to make orders. If employees have an issue, they have to raise it through the Katima Mulilo Labour Inspector, Mary Mabuku and Lilungwe,” said Mr Felix Musukubili
The meeting also revealed that Chinese in Rundu were paying between N$300 to N$1 500 per month. Mr Felix Musukubuli dismissed some allegations that the government was quiet on these unruly Chinese because Namibia was supported militarily by the Chinese during the liberation struggle for independence.
“Those allegations are unfounded and uncalled for those who are being beaten, it is a criminal case and should be reported to the police. Gentlemen, all I’m saying is the Rundu community which is honest had a similar complain and the same with Windhoek and in Oshakati as well and now we are proceeding to Oshikango because they have done the same request and we shall call the Chinese and advise them on what they are supposed to do in terms of our laws not because they supported us militarily. This is uncalled for,” he urged.

He further advised workers in Katima Mulilo to come up with a petition and launch a complaint with the Katima Mulilo labour office.
“Our Labour Inspectors for the region, Mary Mabuku and Mr.Lilungwe recently carried an inspection in the Chinese shops and it showed that the standards were average. The inspection showed that they were not complaining and the standards we are talking of are for the salaries and other labour grievances,” explained Musukubili.
Apart from retail business, many Chinese construction companies have been offered with tenders to construct buildings for the government.Workers in construction companies are paid N$9, 57 per hour or sometimes at entry level. They have no fringe benefits like the social security or pension and have to work legally without required safety gear. Workers live in “harsh and dangerous” conditions and have no job security as Chinese companies use a “hire and fire” system.
The whole of Namibian workforce wants to know how the government awards tender to the Chinese business people who do not comply with the regulated labour laws.

However, according to the Namibian SWAPO politicians, “the good relations between Namibia and indeed other African countries especially in the SADC region and China dates back many years before independence and Namibia is a developing country that is still in need of the expertise of the Chinese business people”. Politicians have urged Chinese retailers to acquaint themselves and have copies of the Labour Act. About 35 Chinese owned shops are currently operating in Katima Mulilo.





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