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Chinese firms accused of ignoring Zambian workers' rights
by Staff Writers
Lusaka (AFP) Nov 3, 2011

S.Leone war criminals complain about Rwanda jail treatment
Freetown (AFP) Nov 3, 2011 - The families of eight Sierra Leone war criminals serving their sentence in Rwanda have complained about their treatment in prison there and want them transferred back home.

Two family sources, who asked not to be named, told AFP they had called on government to intervene and have the prisoners brought back to finish their sentences in Sierra Leone.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said that the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, set up to probe atrocities during the country's 1991-2002 civil war, had warned the government not to interfere in the matter.

"We have been asked by the court to stay off from the matter as any such act will be interpreted as contempt," said Kargbo.

In a nine-page petition handed by the families to the government on September 7, the men alleged that since their arrival in Kigali in October 2009 they had suffered poor nourishment and a lack of access to medical facilities.

The prisoners are three ex-leaders of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao and three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Alex Tamba Brima, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu.

The other two are former leaders of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa.

The men, serving terms of between 15 and 52 years, were sent to Rwanda under a special arrangement as Sierra Leone does not have proper facilities for their detention.

Chinese mining companies in Zambia ignore labour protections, demanding up to 18 hours of labour a day and flouting health and safety rules, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday.

"China's significant investment in Zambia's copper mining industry can benefit both Chinese and Zambians," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"But the miners in Chinese-run companies have been subject to abusive health, safety, and labor conditions and longtime government indifference."

Four Chinese-run copper miners in Zambia are units of the state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, under the authority of China's highest executive body, the report said.

Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer, has welcomed Chinese investment -- though workers have often complained of sub-standard labour conditions.

The report was based on interviews with miners between November 2010 and July 2011.

They described poor ventilation in the shafts, which can cause lung disease, failure to replace damaged equipment, and threats to fire workers who refuse to work in dangerous places.

"They just consider production, not safety. If someone dies, he can be replaced tomorrow. And if you report the problem, you'll lose your job," one miner said in the report.

"Many of the poor health and safety practices we found in Zambia's Chinese-run mines look strikingly similar to abuses we see in China," Bekele said.

"Respecting labor laws and ensuring workers' safety should be standard operating practice both in China and abroad, not treated as an irritating barrier to greater profits."

Many miners at Sino Metals are required to work 12-hour shifts, five days a week, with a sixth 18-hour shift -- despite Zambian laws requiring a 48-hour work week, the report said.

Chinese firms have made some improvements since they started working in Zambia in 2003, such as providing safety equipment, but the report said the equipment was sometimes incomplete and not replaced when damaged.

Zambia's Labour Ministry has added to the problem by endorsing contracts that violate labour laws, the report added.

Zambia's new President Michael Sata has vowed to clean up the mining industry and to improve the lives of the poor.

China has invested an estimated $6.1 billion (4.3 billion euros) in the southern African nation since 2007, equivalent to more than one third of gross domestic product last year.

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Two top South African defence officials resign: report
Johannesburg (AFP) Nov 4, 2011 - South Africa's defence secretary and air force chief have tendered their resignations after the country's deputy president had to cancel a trip to Finland over airplane troubles, a report said Friday.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has accepted the resignation of Defence Secretary Mpumi Mpofu but is still mulling that of air force boss Carlo Gagiano, the weekly Mail & Guardian reported.

The paper said the pair offered to quit over a diplomatically embarrassing incident in which mechanical problems grounded the air force-operated plane that was supposed to take Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to an official visit to Finland last month.

The minister's spokesman confirmed the resignation letters but said only air force boss Gagiano's made direct reference to the incident.

However he said there has been a "hot environment" in the military since the plane fiasco.

"We have got an air force that doesn't have planes to transport VIPs, we've got a procurement process that's not producing planes and we've got a deputy president who cannot honour an official visit because there's no plane. Naturally everyone will be unhappy," spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the paper.

"This thing that happened could have happened in the air. You can't play marbles with the life of the deputy president of the country."

The Bombardier that was to take Motlanthe to Finland had been privately rented, a practice the military has been forced to adopt because of a shortage of VIP planes.

Motlanthe was also forced to make an emergency landing two years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in September his plane had to circle Wellington while pilots flying him to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand dealt with a warning light.


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Nigerian Islamists oppose arms mop-up in restive city
Kano, Nigeria (AFP) Nov 2, 2011
A purported spokesman for a Nigerian Islamist sect has dismissed an arms mop up exercise by soldiers in the restive city of Maiduguri as a ploy to disarm residents ahead of a suspected crackdown. In a conference call with journalists in the northeastern city, a man identifying himself as a spokesman for the Boko Haram sect that has been behind strings of deadly attacks in recent months, call ... read more

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