LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia has dropped the charges against two Chinese managers accused of attempted murder for the shooting and wounding of 11 coal miners during a protest over pay, a lawyer said on Monday.
“The state last Friday informed the court that they were discontinuing with the prosecution. It means that my clients are free persons,” said George Chisanga, their defence lawyer.
Under Zambian law, the state did not need to give reasons for its decision, Chisanga told Reuters.
The shootings last year at the Collum Mine, about 325 km (200 miles) south of the capital Lusaka, sparked public outrage and it remained to be seen what the reaction on the street would be to the latest twist in the saga.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda called for calm last year after the shootings provoked broad condemnation of Chinese firms by unions and opposition parties.
Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), an anti-corruption advocacy group, said the state’s latest move, though supported by the law, was shocking and could erode people’s confidence in the country’s judicial system.
“The trauma and injustice that the mine workers suffered is public knowledge and the government itself has on several occasions reprimanded the managers of the coal mine on the poor working conditions,” TIZ president Rueben Lifuka said.
Chinese companies have not enjoyed an easy ride in Zambia, where workers, unions and opposition politicians frequently accuse them of abuses and of paying poor wages.
In 2005, five Zambians were shot and wounded by managers during pay-related riots at another Chinese-owned mine.
Chinese investors are keen on Zambia because of its copper wealth, which the Asian giant needs to fuel its economic growth. The Collum Mine supplies coal to mines in Zambia’s copper belt for heat generation in refining the raw product.