By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka------Three Chinese nationals have been killed, with one burnt to ashes, in a row linked to xenophobia, Zambia Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo confirmed on Tuesday.
Katongo, in a whatsapp statement to The Southern Times, confirmed that a combined team of police and the Fire Brigade had retrieved the third body of the Chinese nationals murdered in Makeni on Tuesday, after picking up two others on Sunday, in the capital, Lusaka. The body of the last victim was found in a burnt state.
The victims’ involved consisted of one female and two male adults. The bodies have since been deposited in the mortuary at the country’s leading University Teaching Hospital as investigations continue: “So far, we have two suspects in custody” Katongo said.
According to earlier correspondence, the deceased met their fate at a warehouse of a clothing company owned by fellow Chinese on Sunday. The recent incidence catalogues, incidents involving some Zambian and Chinese nationals being embroiled in pitted differences with either Chinese employers or at Chinese-owned mining companies.
In some instances, some Chinese are alleged to have used ‘unprintable racial remarks’ against Zambians. These incidences have evolved since the early 2000’s after mines were privatised.
Last week, at Chinese owned and managed Simona cement plant in Lusaka, 100 Zambian workers were held hostage inside the factory and were not allowed to go home for several days, for fear that they would spread COVID-19. The workers were allegedly threatened with getting fired if they ever left the plant, local media reported citing Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa as saying.
This was after the Chinese management and Executives nevertheless were allowed to go home every night and come back next morning, a development that riled local authorities.
“Both the Zambian workers we spoke to and the Chinese supervisor we spoke to via a Zambian interpreter confirmed that COVID-19 is the reason they have not been allowed to go home for about 8 weeks.” Miles Sampa, the Lusaka Mayor is cited by local media
“We told the Chinese supervisor that this is slavery reloaded.” The Mayor then directed that the workers, from neighboring Chongwe and Kafue Districts, be released and be allowed to go home.
Earlier, a Chinese-owned restaurant in Lusaka was shut down by local authorities for discriminating against locals. The restaurant was reported to have denied entry to a Zambian man, labeling him a "foreigner", an incident the victim described as racist.
Lusaka Mayor Sampa also accused the restaurant of selling products labelled in Chinese and not English - as prescribed by the local consumer laws.
"Apartheid finished a long time ago in Lusaka after Zambia gained independence in 1964," the mayor told the Lusaka Times website. Local television station Muvi TV had earlier aired the story of the man who was denied entry to the restaurant:
However, Chinese ambassador in Zambia Li Jie has made solemn representations to the Zambian foreign ministry in the aftermath of the demise of the trio, all from East China's Jiangsu Province.
In a statement on its website, Lie condemned the "appalling and vicious act of violence." He has demanded for an expeditious stop to the matter with investigations carried out immediately.
Chinese-Foreign affairs department in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, confirmed the warehouse in Lusaka was owned by Lu Yutong, a Chinese national from that city. Lu was in China when the incident took place and according to local sources, one of the victims was his wife. The other two were employees, according to Chinese-owned Global Times.
Some Chinese living in the country are cited as expressing concern over their own safety. They claim some locals (Zambians) have misunderstood the epidemic measures adopted by some Chinese companies, they said.
Police preliminary investigations indicate the three suspects, two men and one woman, entered the warehouse and killed the victims before committing robbery. They later set a fire to destroy evidence.
Pitted differences between Zambians and Chinese stretch to early 2000 in the aftermath of privatisation of the mines in early 1990s. In 2005 over 50 Zambian miners died from an explosion at Chinese-owned BGRIMM explosive producing company.
Bgrimm is a company that produces and supplies explosives for mining companies on the Copper belt. In 2010 a total 13 Zambians were shot at ‘Chinese’ Collum Coal Mine over wage differences and racial acrimony.
In 2012 a riot arose at Collum mine and one Chinese person was murdered and several others seriously injured. In November 2017, one Chinese national was killed in an armed robbery at a Chinese company in the Ndola industrial plant. In October 2015, a Chinese company in Kitwe, Zambia's second largest city, was robbed, during which three were killed and three injured.