A Chinese contractor and his managers have been accused of meting out physical punishments, miserable conditions and meagre pay to workers involved in building of Zimbabwe's national defence college.
Workers at Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's pet construction project have suffered abuse by managers of the Chinese contractor, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC). The construction site north of Harare has also become the lightning rod for another source of simmering resentment.
"The beatings happen very often. They ill-treat you and, if you make a mistake, they beat you up," said a 28-year-old carpenter, wearing blue overalls as he made the long walk home after a 14-hour shift. ".
"I saw some men beaten up yesterday. A guy complained: 'You're not treating us like human beings,' and the Chinese replied: 'You should appreciate we've come to assist you.' They beat him up and he was fired," The Guardian quoted the carpenter, as saying. He estimated that there were about 600 Zimbabwean and 300 Chinese workers on the site. Around 50 of the Chinese were managers.
The carpenter said he typically gets up at 4am and works from 7am to 9pm every day. For this he is paid four dollars a day, but at least it is work so he can feed his wife and three children. "We don't have a choice because we need to survive. But if it was possible to chase all the Chinese away, I would," he said.
A 26-year-old builder, on his way to a nightshift, said: "We tried to go on strike but the leader of it was beaten up and sacked. The government doesn't say anything, even though it knows people are beaten up. I saw them undress some workers and beat them with helmets. Some of them were crying with the pain."