04/04/2011 - The Zambian state prosecutor has dropped charges against two Chinese mine supervisors accused of shooting at least 13 Zambian miners during a wage protest in October, a government official said Tuesday.
The trial of Xiao Li Shan and Wu Jiu Hua, former managers at Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine, is now closed, an official with Zambia's Directorate of Public Prosecutions told Dow Jones Newswires from Zambia's capital, Lusaka.
"The state dropped the charges and court doesn't have to make a ruling on the matter," he said, adding that the prosecution failed to get the witnesses needed to proceed with the trail.
The two defendants had been charged with 13 counts of attempted murder.
On Monday, after prosecutors first moved to drop the charges, activists and union leaders had called upon the government to continue with the trial.
"This is a deliberate unwillingness by the state to pursue a criminal act," said Robert Mwanza, head of the Citizens Democratic Party of Zambia, Monday. "We are disappointed, yet not surprised by this turn of events that sets a bad precedent that our investors can abuse our workers and get away with it."
Company officials couldn't be reached for an immediate comment.
After the shootings, locals rioted and blocked the road to the mine. The Zambian government and the Chinese embassy in Zambia later ordered Collum to improve conditions for workers, and in November management announced a higher bottom wage rate plus a housing and transport allowance, and also offered to compensate the miners who were shot with a total of at least 375 million Zambian kwacha ($79,787).
Union representatives weren't involved in the deal, according to Sikufela Mundia, president of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers Zambian. Unions have accused management of Collum, a major supplier of coal to copper and cobalt mines, of denying their workers chance to join trade unions.
Chinese-owned enterprises have in recent years pumped millions of dollars into Zambia's mining sector in search of minerals for resource-hungry China, but have often been accused of poor labor practices.
Results of a government inquest into the shooting of six miners at Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Mine in 2005 has never been made public.