As a couple of prominent African nations prepare to go into elections in the current year, media platforms across the globe have been flooded with content on Chinese attempts to influence Zambian elections. Scholars of geopolitics and political communication have pointed out the threats emerging from Chinese influence in Zambian elections and consider them as attempts to sabotage the popular anti-China movement in the country, led by the Zambian youth.
In fact, Chinese totalitarianism has been a hot political issue in Zambia for over a decade and a half and its root lies in the movement launched by former President Michael Sata. Since his first presidential run-up in 2006, Sata attacked China for disturbing and disordering the Zambian society by paying ‘slave wages’, defying safety norms for workers, degrading environment, and corrupting its leaders, besides creating a barrage of distress. He also argued that China is not only corrupting the Zambian leaders, but leaders across Africa. During his speeches, he also committed to decouple his country’s relations with China and nullify the deals with the country, if elected to power.
The popular hero of the working class was not engendered accidently, rather, the burgeoning Chinese tyranny and oppression of the Zambians gave rise to the new leader. A trade unionist himself, Michael Sata dedicated his entire life for the sufferings of the mineworkers in Zambia-of which a greater portion comprised of those working in the copper mines controlled by the Chinese companies, woefully treated by the Chinese employers.
The degree of Chinese brutalities with Zambian mineworkers can be gauged by the several shooting incidents wherein the Chinese mine owners used to shoot Zambian mine workers, many a time at a point-blank range. In one of such incidents, five Zambian mineworkers were shot at by Chinese managers during a stand-off at China owned Chambishi mine in 2005. Similarly, in 2010, two Chinese supervisor of the China-owned company ‘Collum Coal Mines’ shots, 13 coalminers, for rasing their voices against the non-payments of their salaries.
Unfortunately, the Chinese managers succeeded in burrying the case down by briberies and pay-off the authorities. Later in the same year, a miner working at a mine owned by the same company died in the police detention, possibly by the police torture. Locals belived that he was arrested on the basis of complaints by one of his mine managers and tortured due to pressure exerted by the company. The dropping off charges from the supervisors by the ruling dispensation – the government of Rupiah Banda, was seen as a cowardly act, fuelling popular discontent against the Chinese influence as well as the then ruling government.
Sata was quick to rise against the Chinese despotism and launched a powerful campaign against the country and its influence in Zambia. Public in massive numbers joined him in his battle against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He attacked the CCP for funding the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) and declared to “kick out” the Chinese companies. His such thundering statements earned him the titled of the ‘King Cobra’.