Laura Miti’s response to ‘Chinaman’

Filed under: Editor's Choice |

Dear Chinaman

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my article. I hope this is the beginning of a discussion round this question of Chinese workers in Zambia which I hope others, on either side of the debate, can join.

Let me start by saying there is little that you say about Zambians’ work ethic or lack thereof that I would disagree with. While maybe not the worst on the continent, Zambians can mess around at the work place and be terribly unproductive. Most annoying for me is the attitude towards time. Workers will saunter in an hour late and want to take time off for every excuse possible. Between genuine time off matters such as the death of a close family neighbour, and the ridiculousness of wanting to attend a prayer meeting conducted by a powerful Prophet from Nigeria during work hours, there is a whole range of often mind boggling reasons that Zambians imagine they should be given paid time off for.

Even when employees show up at work regularly, employers have to deal with the problem of poor standards that are taken as normal. Shoddy service, eating at inappropriate times and places, talking on the cell phone while a client is waiting, poor workmanship – all are common. We are only  human not machines so do not expect excellence all the time, seems to be the attitude.

And of course there is the issue of an education system that is releasing increasingly less skilled workers into the workforce.

So yes, Mr Chinaman, you have a point.

That conceded, I still would argue that you and I are discussing this question from divergent viewpoints. I would still contend that a poor work ethic among the general citizenry cannot be an excuse for a hotel to bring in waiters from China or, for goodness sake, guards. I would also say that the unemployment figures in Zambia are so high that if an employer really put their mind to it, they would find people out there willing to work long, hard hours in order to put a regular meal of nshima and beans on the table for their families. There are many adult Zambians willing to do jobs that in other countries are reserved for young people on their way to better paying positions. These adults take the entry level jobs and stay at them for years.

So yes, we have a poor work culture but heck there are millions of young and older people out there who, if given a chance, will work hard. And if all else fails, I am sure there are college and university students happy to take part time jobs in order to pay fees or have a little bit of pocket money that makes life easier. Why not employ them instead of a Chinese waiter?

So Mr Chinaman the argument that Zambians are lazy is no excuse for the situation at the Golden Peacock Hotel.

But to be honest it is not even your problem, this allowing “expatriates” to hold menial jobs in a sea of citizen unemployment. It is ours. Our government needs to ensure that only jobs that cannot be filled by locals ever go to expatriates but even more importantly that our education system teaches young Zambians the value of good old fashioned hard work.

Again thank you for writing and I hope you are one of the skilled Chinese here to pass on skills and implement projects that, we for now, cannot.

By the way, because this is a quick response, I have chosen to not to address the China makes cheap goods available to the poor and is overall Africa’s best friend question. There are two sides to that story too but let’s leave it for another day.

Comments Closed

48 Responses to Laura Miti’s response to ‘Chinaman’

  1. Zambia is our Country, you have to accept us the way we are PERIOD!
    You either love us or leave us.
    This is not China.

    1 Land and 1 Nation is our cry - April 19, 2013
    17:29

  2. Laura, I agree with you, even though i am a chinese.
    In my opinion, most of zambians are hardworking, and can be very skilled after traning. The main reason that zambians could not grow big business is because of no planing, no money saving. A worker can spend most of the money after he gets paid. A loacal contractor will buy BENZ cars after getting the advance payment and then no money to buy material for the project.

    John - April 19, 2013
    13:36

    • I agree 100%. I have seen friends fail to complete simple social consultancy assignments all because they spend the advance. This totally irresponsible too. On failure to save by workers, again I agree, but sometimes its lack of knowledge and information. If a worker is fully aware, he or she will save a little despite the low salary that s/he receives.

      Bob - April 20, 2013
      17:49

  3. Immigration Department in Zambia is “owned” by the Chinese. There is no other plausible explanation of how they get work permits as guards, waiters etc.

    Where is the dude who claimed he was “allergic to corruption”? Answer: The Chinese “bought” him within two weeks of coming to power…he is now their best friend and biggest employment agent in Zambia!!

    CRAZY HORSE - April 19, 2013
    12:25

  4. Let China recruit Zambians to do menial work there and pay them well. All human beings are lazy. It is supervisors who cultivate the spirit of hard work to make everybody feel proud to work hard.
    Countries have been assigned mentor states to assist them develop. Zambia was given Israel to do that from 1964, but we quarreled with the mentor who left us with incomplete UNZA. Hotel Intercontinental built by the Israeli labour movement is still standing as a monument of hospitality in Lusaka.
    Chinese are our best friends and no ill-talk will divert the two countries from being good pals. They will cope with the current regime just as villagers cope with “visilu”. China became a member of the UN by a proposal and seconding done by Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda and Dr. Julius K. Nyerere. Before that, China was discriminated against and was not recognized as a country worth belonging to the UN! Nyerere and Kaunda removed that veil of hate and even visited China to underline their convictions that Chinese people were actually part of humanity. That is why Chinese want to prove the point that they can help Africa develop.
    Zambia has failed to develop in 50 years. That is shameful. It is a product of experiments to do systems which the people do not even know nor understand. The love for political power for its own sake also accounts for failure to develop the country. Labeling successful people as corrupt paints a wrong picture to fight poverty.
    Take note that Chinese can only go a little far to assist. The yoke of development is around each Zambian’s neck.

    Patriot - April 19, 2013
    12:03

  5. While I can understand your instinct to defend Zambian workers and the need to give jobs to locals, the issue of laziness and bad work attitude has been grossly underplayed. If one has the misfortune of being on the receiving end of the poor attitude and laziness of Zambian workers, I dont think you would say much in their defence.Add to this poor work attitude the out-of-control thieving of the Zambian worker, then you have a really monstrous situation. Take my case for example. Living on a small holding and keeping 6,000 layers to earn a living, I was shocked one day to discover that my workers had been helping themselves to my chickens and in a space of 1 year had spirited out 1,800 birds! When I took the one we caught to the police, he then revealed the friends and by end of day we had 6 out of 7 workers in police custody! With this scenario, who would’nt want to employ Chinese poultry workers?

    Kaliza - April 19, 2013
    11:57

  6. You can tell the difference between the zambians who are working hard and those who aren’t.the ones who are working hard look for new ways of making money or increasing the productivity at work the ones who are not working hard want to make more money from their employmentwithout adding no extra benefit and even though many other people can do what the are doing

    #$$ - April 19, 2013
    11:38

  7. Mr. “Chinaman” has missed the point or it has decided not to refer to the policies of its own government in respect of foreign laborers. Furthermore, it will be beneficial if Mr. “Chinaman” clarify what will happen to a foreigner in PRC who decides to express his or her opinion about stupidity and discrimination constantly perpetuated against Africans in China?
    Therefore Mr. “Chinaman”, please be grateful for the hospitality, even if it was obtained through “oiling the wheels” in Immigration.

    Free - April 19, 2013
    10:18

  8. I agree with someone who has said the Chinaman problem is a result of lack of leadership in the country. The perception of zambians being lazy is also not true. which Zambians are we referring to here. Are you saying the likes of Mizinga Melu i.e professionals are lazy or we are talking about the casual workers who are not graduates but feel they are entitled to higher perks like the professionals.Both Laura and the author of the Chinaman response have not stated which category of Zambian workers are lazy. Lets us learn to discuss issues that have been thoroughly researched and not based on ones narrow experience.

    Kuomboka - April 19, 2013
    09:48

    • The article is talking about ‘menial’ jobs not professionals! Statistics available in construction for instance, indicate that where a Chinese bricklayer lays 300 by 6″ blocks in a day, a Zambian bricklayer can hardly lay 150!

      Kaliza - April 19, 2013
      12:03

  9. Only underpaid Zambians appear lazy. There are a few Zambians who get a lot of money and they are hardworking.

    Komboni Dweller - April 19, 2013
    09:36

    • You mean like all the people who make a living out of attending workshops to collect their sitting allowances and per diem?

      Simple - April 19, 2013
      10:58

  10. To have Chinese waiters and guards is surely total nosensce no matter how lazy Zambians can be,are we honestly tryng to say the entire poulation of Zambians are lazy in tryng to justify this matter. i Happen to move a lot and have worked in various workplaces as some Zambians can be lazy, there are so many hard working Zambians out there and to say all zambians are lazy realy sounds an insult to me.

    vic - April 19, 2013
    08:58

  11. I thought Laura would come out all defensive on the matter as is typical by Zambians but my word! a mature concession and argument. I will now read your book Laura.

    Fenwick - April 19, 2013
    08:45

  12. What Zambia needs is Kaizen! I attended a meeting at the Mulungushi Conference recently and the benefits are huge. What is Kaizen? The Japanese word “kaizen” simply means “good change”, with no inherent meaning of either “continuous” or “philosophy” in Japanese dictionaries or in everyday use. The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the English word “improvement”. However, given the common practice in Japan of labeling industrial or business improvement techniques with the word “kaizen” (for lack of a specific Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement” or “philosophy of improvement”). After the war in 1945, the Japanese took a philosphy to do everything better, especially in the case of oft-emulated practices spearheaded by Toyota

    MB - April 19, 2013
    08:34

  13. A very high % of us are Lazy mostly in TOWNS we want handouts, be musicians and easy corruption money. But this is what i would call Chinese infiltration into our Economy ie Business,Labour,construction and manufacturing. This in turn will have a crisis that the other government will spend a lot of taxpayers money and time to reverse. For how long are we going to learn what we already know only because the corrupt person has no way out. Do we really need to take to the street peacefull demos, sit-ins, go on work stopage to have these things or people pressured to stop? I know there are hardworking Zambians out there if they could check there population samples.Look at the rural areas people can only get food on the table after cultivating.Do you find lazy people there if any they filter out into towns begging and the likes.

    RECommend:Proffessional Jobs only one expatrite is needed to teach and monitor the Zambians no excuses.
    Other types no need.what is CEEC doing on this one or was it phased out?

    SIZIDZABWEZEDWAPONSODI - April 19, 2013
    08:21

  14. I have worked with different nationalities and I feel it is wrong to claim that productivity depends on culture. Work ethic are things that can easily defined by the present environment. If your company has poor culture you may definitely fall into the spiral or struggle to remain unique. There is nothing special about a guy from the US or China. I work in a very technical area and have interacted with Americans, British name them all, on technical project. They may have advantages due to us not having the resources and exposure to some of the facilities and equipment they have. Believe me, in terms of skill and capability this depends on the individual.

    Chikopekope - April 19, 2013
    07:43

  15. Laura put your facts correct. In as much as you want to appear to please the government and poor Zambians, the situatin in all work places in Zambia is the same. There is this culture of believing a salary is paid anyway whether someone has produced or not. Most zambian workers do not understand that te efforts they put in work shoujld translate in what they should be paid. Absenteeism is the order of the day but no one wants to be absent on the salary queue or be underpaid for the days one was absent. Let’s learn from the Chinaman how to be productive and start changing our approach to work culture. It does not require length modules or workshops to migrate fo good working ethics. So Laura partner with Chinaman and develop concepts that will truly put nshima and beans on poor Zambians.

    The Adviser - April 19, 2013
    07:36

    • In china, they do that because they have no regards for human rights! whats is wrong with me attending a funeral of a loved one. The only problem we have is that we want to attend the neighbour’s funeral 24 hours which we rarely do but want to use the time to do our own things! I attend my relatives’ funeral after work and during burial, I don’t need permission after hours! In my company that is the policy. Unless one has lost a child, sibling, parent or spouse! v

      robin owens - April 19, 2013
      08:56

  16. I work for a succesful indegenous Zambian company where all employees are Zambians. Yes while it may be true that some Zambians are lazy, a great majority of them are hard working. Its basically true even for Chinise. They have lazy chaps as well. The general problem that we have is leadership failure at the highest level. Otherwise its actualy stupid to have Chinise waiters in Zambia.

    Yetuna - April 19, 2013
    06:12

    • Well put, to the point and compact!

      charlie diaspora - April 19, 2013
      08:32

    • Do you remember that white fella fro RSA urinating on the sleeping on duty worker? How did you interpret that?

      Think Tank - April 19, 2013
      09:47

  17. I think I agree with christian ,Iam Zambian,let us call a spade and bloody spade;there is no need of being politically correct here.Yes the government is partly to blame,but the average Zambian is lazy,go to Kansanshimine,on average 20 operators will be absent every single day to visit the many brothels in town and all the machines are parked..can a chinaman do that..? a big NO of course .If FQML had an opportunity to bring in peolple who are committed to work they would have done so a long time ago…no wonder expats from Ghana and Indonesia have stayed for many years at the mine ..why? because they can be trusted.Imagine at Grizzly security guards in the pit are ilitrate senegalise…only because Gunase trusts there commitment to work…I worked at FQML and Grizzly and I saw first hand what a Zambian can became worse still,give some cash.Talk of Lumwana..every house hold has a car for touring nearby solwezi…even when we are poor to own a car…we Zambians leave exagerated lives…let us work to set up our children not enjoy ourselves…and let us grow up and call a bloody spade a bloody spade and be hard workers!!!!!!(see where hard work has gotten China)enough for now.

    Yongwe - April 19, 2013
    04:05

  18. Laura Miti is a socialist like Fred Meembe

    capitalist negro - April 19, 2013
    02:36

    • So? How does that change the truth in net article?

      Enigma Itumerengi - April 19, 2013
      06:47

  19. Who issues those work permits. Honestly no matter how lazy Zambians may be, (which I disagree ) security staff and restaurant staff don’t need expatriates. How come everyone else employs zambian security personnel without a problem. There is a thin line between hardworking and slavery. We should guard against the latter. Excuses on this article do not hold……we should just do what is right – give those jobs to locals, they are capable….period

    me - April 19, 2013
    00:42

  20. We need to embrace standards and standardisation. Everything can practically be reduced to a procedure or protocol without which believe me you cannot account for anything including time at work. Our country is turning into a slum because no one wants to set a bar for anything or any sphere of life.

    While it is possible to allow ‘knowledge’ workers to have a leeway in the way their productivity is accounted for, the bulk of the workforce (80% plus) are on the ‘production line’ and must be monitored including controlling access to places of work, clocking in etc. among others.

    Nsimbi - April 18, 2013
    22:52

  21. There is also another side to this debate, companies or employers in Zambia do not invest in educating their workers, by this i do not mean sending them for further studies as some of them would already be qualified. It is the induction of employers into learning and absorbing the company’s work culture and ethics. HR and managers make it up as they go.
    The few years that i worked in Zambia i did not see policies that are supposed to guide both employees and employers.
    Customer facing employees are not trained in good customer service thats why they carry on like they are doing their customer a favour yet its the other way round.
    Its rare for a check out assistant in any shop large and small to greet a customer later on smile.

    kabimba - April 18, 2013
    21:59

    • Does that need to be taught by the employer? That is common sense and a requirement! An employee should know that he is in business beause of the customer. These things are taught in school.

      fyakale - April 19, 2013
      05:34

  22. Its interesting and probably easier to find fault in another’s “work culture” but neglect to question Chinaman’s concern and presence in our Country. Too many substandard pirated products have found their way onto our “pure” Refined Country by no other than Chinaman.

    banji - April 18, 2013
    21:47

  23. Donchi Kubeba!!!!!

    MMD Zealot - April 18, 2013
    21:26

  24. Laura Miti, why are you responding to your self, you write an article , draft a critic of your article pretending as if it’s written by a Chinese national in Zambia and you respond to the critic just for the sake of arousing debate on your chosen topic. The critic to your article was surely not written by Chinese national, that you know deep down your heart. This is like sending ones self a birthday card and then happily reading if it after receiving it from a postman.

    its only me - April 18, 2013
    21:26

    • You are probably retarded and the lazy Zambian we are talking about!

      MB - April 19, 2013
      07:05

    • Why would you post the same comment twice? Definately loco!

      MB - April 19, 2013
      07:06

    • You surely are a professor in Hallucinations and false detections from the university Witchcraft and Wizadry.

      Inxosana - April 19, 2013
      12:55

  25. Laura – You are superb!

    Zambians have gone through handouts days of first republic and now are much better, in fact entrepreneurs than our peers in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Zimbabweans beat us hands down.

    But we have come a long way and improving every day. We no longer attend funerals for days in a row and come back from church service, or go to funeral homes in the evening.

    Culture is changing and we are no more at the bottom of nations.

    We need jobs and good role models and have a bright future.

    masterpiece - April 18, 2013
    21:07

  26. Let the government also investigate what is happening here in lumwana mine. Too many expatriates and yet learning from zambians. What can I learn from someone who came as a mere mechanic and doesn’t even know the systems of the equipment he is working on? Worse still after seeing PF coming into power these chaps are appointed as technical advisers to cover them, no wonder Barrick is making losses. Barrick open your eyes.

    kopala - April 18, 2013
    20:41

  27. As I write here, Time has written a piece on Huawei which is a global giant with eyes on the US market. But they also write “Is it also a hidden channel for China’s spies and saboteurs?” Who will forget headlines such as “Chinese Bribery Allegations Surfaced Against Wall Street Journal?” or “Chinese Hackers Hit U.S. Media!” Chinaman give us a better cock and bull story about why China is succeeding where others are failing! Low wages, no protective clothing, cheap imitations, extreme use of plastic products (when most countries are moving away).
    As for lazy Zambian workers, why don’t the Chinese go and compete in countries like Japan, South Korea. Even Botswana has limited the number of Chinese who can live and work there (for obvious reasons).

    MB - April 18, 2013
    20:34

    • And that is not one sided article. And many nations and individuals not appreciate the value of quality over Cheapness. Too much wastage of time and money replacing grinders and bulbs at home. I for one now look for goods made in RSA, Germany, Japan and Europe when it comes to buying durables.

      masterpiece - April 18, 2013
      21:10

    • “why don’t Chinese go and compete in Japan and South Korea”? No, the Chinese are not here to compete with Zambians, they are here to reap. Raw materials, arable land,market for their goods, etc. This only possible in AFRICA and not the countries you mention. And we’re stuck with them. Just look at the headlines in government press in the past two weeks.

      Yanni - April 19, 2013
      07:00

  28. I completely disagree with both Laura and the Chinaman that Zambians are lazy. I know many Zambians including myself who work hard to achieve things in fact I am competing with Chinese in several levels and I know for a fact that the only reason Chinaman and his compatriots are succeeding in winning tenders in Zambia is that they use underhand methods! Look at all the corruption cases currently being processed by the Joint Investigating Team, the perpetrators are Chinese. In many countries the only reason that they are succeeding is the opulent corruption they espouse.

    MB - April 18, 2013
    20:34

    • Be reasonable, laziness is synonymous with a zambian. The two are tight like a cellphone and SIM card, door na doorframe . But not ALL Zambians are lazy.

      Christian - April 19, 2013
      02:54

    • Not far from the truth these chinese contractors doing roads charge govt for things like quarry & yet they just pick it free without regard of enviromental hazard or paying the local authorities. They charge for setting up housing & yet they make their workers sleep in butimen drum cuttings ram shackles & get away with it. They can go in any villagers field with their equipment in the name of making a road destroying all crops without compensating the owners check out my FB page I posted something to that effect.the problem we have in this country are the regulatory boards which are not enforcing the law & we have come to accept & even if you complain no one will take you serious because they are corrupted. This is reference to the sioma-sesheke road

      ikafa - April 19, 2013
      04:29

  29. I work with these Chinks.In this company we have chinese excavator and front-end loader operators,tipper truck drivers,security guards,plumbers and carpenters. Jobs which can be done by Zambians.This is well known by the government and nothing is being done.they dont have work permits but bucks.

    Barotse buffalo - April 18, 2013
    20:25

  30. This is great Laura. This issue was a hot campaign issue by our current government. Sad to note that the problem continues. yes Zambians have a bad work culture but we still have plenty hardworking men and women in this land

    Mwana Wakwathu - April 18, 2013
    19:54

    • We definately have! But who will go searching and spend hours trying out the failures and go through formalities with them. Its easier to hire a non zambian

      fyakale - April 19, 2013
      05:39

  31. Great piece Laura. Agree with you

    Love,
    Makes Sense

    Makes sense - April 18, 2013
    19:43

    • Hmmm ba Makes Sense….nangu kutemwa ba Laura teso! You even sign the comment ati “Love, Make Sense” Iyo ni suck it to me!!! Awe sure!!!

      Yangu Mumapa - April 18, 2013
      22:42