THE Socialist Party has asked the government to pay Konkola Copper Mines workers rather than beating and arresting them.
On Tuesday, police arrested 20 KCM contractor workers who were protesting poor conditions of service.
However, the Socialist Party described the action taken by police against defenceless workers as revolting.
“The Socialist Party in the Copperbelt strongly condemns the teargassing of, and attack against, hundreds of unarmed and poor miners by the Zambian police at Konkola Copper Mines in Chingola district,” party Copperbelt spokesperson Joseph Kangwa said. “These actions by men and women in uniform is revolting for the working people of Zambia. We blame the KCM management and the [President Edgar] Lungu government for this. The workers were just peacefully staging a protest to demand improvements in their working conditions. They have a right to hold protests and they have a right to better working conditions. Workers even have the right to a living wage, to secure employment, and to form and join unions.”
He said the police action was a direct violation the workers’ rights.
“It has no other objective than to stop the workers from protesting. Police can use teargas and attack protestors only in extreme cases, which is not what happened. Instead of heeding the workers’ just demands or negotiating for a mid-way solution, the KCM management and the Lungu government decided to violate their rights,” Kangwa said.
“It is most annoying to hear that from the time the government took over the operations of KCM mine from Vedanta investor, contract mine workers have no fixed date for receiving their meagre salaries and they go months unpaid despite working very hard every single day. They have been working under poor and inhumane conditions and there is no job security at the company run by their own government! What a shame!”
He said since the PF government took office, it has been running away from finding solutions to the challenges faced by mine workers.
Kangwa said the PF should stop using force, violence and police brutality against miners and citizens.
“Every time Zambian workers try to exercise their constitutional and democratic rights of airing their grievances through peaceful protests, the government has always sent the police to teargas and beat them up. They have never talked to or reasoned with the people or solve their problems. This is dictatorship of the capitalist class, not a democracy. Dr Fred M’membe and the SP membership on the Copperbelt Province take the side of all the miners who were protesting. We demand that their right to hold protests be respected. We demand the immediate [back] payment of their [wages] and that the date when they receive their remunerations be fixed. We demand that there be negotiations for increases in their salaries. We demand the immediate improvement of their working conditions as their health matters,” said Kangwa. “We demand a stop to the use of force and police brutality of the PF government against the Zambian working class whenever they try to stage a peaceful protest. It is the constitutional and democratic right of workers to protest poor working conditions. We express our solidarity with the KCM miners. We urge them and all the people of Zambia to vote for leaders who will represent them and their interests.”