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South African firm cited for abusing workers

11/23/2011, 9:48 a.m.
South African firm cited for abusing workers

Nov. 22 (GIN) - Over 100 foreign workers were expelled from Mozambique after local labor officials said they were illegally employed by Kentz-Engineers & Constructors, a South African firm.

The Labor Ministry said the foreign workers, most of South African and Filipino nationality, were denied holidays, weekends and proper protective clothing. The company also failed to register its Mozambican workers for social security.

Kentz-Engineers is a sub-contractor of the Brazilian mining giant Vale whose coal mine in Mozambique is one of the world's largest, slated to produce 22 million tons after a new expansion.

Vale's record is blemished however as far as labor rights and the environment. A strike in Cadbury, Ontario, lasted almost 18 months and environmental violations were reported in Indonesia.

Anabela Lemos, a local environmentalist, said: "It's well known, the (negative) impact of coal mining, which is why some countries don't want any more coal mining... Plus to generate energy, it's more pollution. We don't call that development."

Despite the wealth earned by area mines, Mozambique remains an aid-dependent country. After a spike in prices last year, food riots killed over a dozen people. "This is a new colonial era. This time it's not government; it's corporations," Lemos said.

To make way for the mine, Vale moved about 5,000 people off their land into what they call "settlements."

"Vale told us we had to leave, but I didn't want to," Doratea Mateus told Annie Murphie of the International Reporting Project. "That was our land! Like it here? No, I don't. Here there's nowhere to grow food. And sure, there's water and energy, but you have to pay for it. Back on our land, we had a river for water, and it was free."