Brawl between worker and boss reveals tensions between Chinese and Congolese in mines

Published on : Modified :

A video published on June 30 shows a fight between a Congolese worker and his Chinese manager, on the construction site of a factory in the province of Lualaba, in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is not the first incident in this region, where several Chinese companies operate mines, in disregard of the social rights of their employees.

On June 30, the “Reso 100fil Congolais” Facebook page posted a video that shows two people, a Congolese and a Chinese fighting over what looks like a construction site. Despite the first attempts to intervene by a colleague, the Chinese kicks his helmet and kicks his Congolese colleague. A rat race ensues between the two protagonists that three other workers end up separating.

The video has been shared nearly 1,500 times. The caption suggests that the Congolese employee “severely beat up his Chinese boss due to mistreatment in his professional environment in Kolwezi”. It provoked indignant comments: “In his own country, he is mistreated by a foreigner” affirms one Internet user while another believes that “the Chinese have had a lot of power in this country to the point of treading on the Congolese”.

Although the incident dates from the same day as the publication on Facebook, it does not take place in Kolwezi. According to our Observers, the scene occurred more than 100 km away, on the construction site of a new copper mining plant in the commune of Fungurumè, on behalf of Tenke Fungurumé Mining, one of the most major world producers of copper and cobalt, 80% owned since 2018 by China Molybdenum.

“The Chinese call us macaques”

The brawl takes place in a context of social tensions between the Chinese officials of the Majengo company, in charge of the site, and the local workers. Contacted by the editorial staff of France 24 Observers, one of them, who witnessed the scene and requested anonymity, said:

“It was early in the morning. The Chinese supervisor you see in the video was giving an order to my colleague who refused to comply. The tone rose. The Chinese man made discourteous remarks. And they came to the question. hands.

The atmosphere was already a little tense on the site. The week before, there had been a two-day strike action on June 25 and 26 over bonus issues. The Tenke Fungurumé Mining company for which we are building the plant offered a bonus of 250 dollars (approximately 210 euros) to each worker on the site. But instead of this sum, the managers of Majengo, which subcontracts the construction of the site, reduced the premium to 55 dollars (about 47 euros). We were not happy. We have negotiated to bring the premium down to $ 100 (around 85 euros). But slingers were suspended for a week. The atmosphere at the site was a bit gloomy.

It’s very difficult to work with the Chinese. They make us work beyond the regular eight hours. We are not entitled to paid vacation. Absences are deducted from wages at the end of the month. And above all, the Chinese superiors despise us and utter insults. They call us macaques. What goes very badly on the site. “

We tried to join the company Tenke Fungurumé Mining without success.

This is not the first time that images showing scenes of violence between Congolese and Chinese have circulated on social networks. In March, a fight also pitted a Chinese and a group of Congolese workers in Kolwezi over a mining concession from Sino-Congolaise des Mines (Sicomines), a joint venture with the Congolese state 68% owned by groups Chinese including China Railway Construction.

In January, according to an article in online media, the high court of Kolwezi had opened a flagrant trial against six Chinese subcontracted to Sicomines for the murder of a Congolese beaten to death for having been caught learning to drive a service.

“The Chinese do not consider the Congolese workforce but despise it”

Gaston Mushid is a former journalist and provincial deputy for Lualaba – the province where the incident took place – who regularly intervenes in mining companies to defend workers.

“The problem with Chinese companies is that they do not respect workers’ rights. There is no union delegation and the Congolese work in environments that are not always secure for derisory wages. has no adequate equipment for workers who often handle chemicals or do metallurgy There is no social security.

Chinese companies believe they are untouchable because they have top-of-state coverage. It is another form of colonization. Congolese workers are fed up with being mistreated. It is the fed up with bad cohabitation that is expressed in this way. “

According to several scientific studies, this poor cohabitation is also due to the stereotypes that the two communities maintain towards each other: the Chinese mistrust of the Congolese and their aptitudes for work, while Chinese companies may be seen as a new form of colonization and exploitation.

“There would be fewer problems if Chinese expatriates were less in contact with the Congolese workforce”

This observation is shared by Freddy Kasongo, secretary general of the Observatory for studies and support on social and environmental responsibility.

“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the level of the mining sector, the Western companies which were on the spot have sold all of their assets or either the majority to Chinese groups. Western management is therefore giving way to a Chinese management which is coming. with its share of problems, the main one related to the workforce.

The Chinese as well as the Indians come with their workers. And that is a frustration because they come to compete for places with the local populations. However, the Congolese Labor Code requires that expatriates only occupy positions whose skills are not available locally. What is not respected.

On top of that, Congolese workers are paid less, and sometimes forced to work much more than their Chinese colleagues. These differences in treatment exacerbate tensions that the authorities are struggling to resolve. But the recipe is that companies must be forced to respect the Labor Code and allow workers to have representatives who can better defend them.

There would be fewer problems if Chinese expatriates had less contact with the Congolese workforce. “

In 2019, the French Treasury estimated that 80% of Congolese exports from the mining sector were destined for China, whose companies represent 70 to 80% of the copper and cobalt market.

Note: thanks to Patrick Kerlendo Itshimbu, general manager of the media Lualaba Future who contributed to the writing of this article. And to our Observer Didier Mukaleng.

1 thought on “Brawl between worker and boss reveals tensions between Chinese and Congolese in mines”


Comments are closed.