by Kolapo Olapoju
A Zambian labour minister, Fackson Shamenda, has accused an executive at the country’s station of Dangote Cement of attempting to bribe him.
During a recent tour of the plant in Ndola, 300km north of the capital, Lusaka, Shamenda said a Nigerian executive at the Zambian unit tried to bribe him at a hotel a week ago.
Shamenda, however, failed to state the nature of the inducement, but said he rejected it because he had critical labour issues to sort out with the company.
According to local media reports, He said, “He told me that it was a tradition in their culture to give someone a token of appreciation. Maybe his idea was that I turn a blind eye to what is happening at Dangote.”
Shamenda also claimed that Dangote Industries Zambia discouraged workers from joining labour unions, with the contracts of those who joined, reportedly terminated.
On Tuesday, 16 September, Shamenda told Reuters, “There is no union, and according to the reports I have received, those who have attempted to join unions have had their contracts terminated. I have asked the labour commissioner to investigate and tell me all the categories of employees, because the reports we have received indicate there are no permanent employees.”
Meanwhile, Dangote Industries Zambia has released a statement denying the allegations of bribery, stating that the allegations were malicious misinformation. It stated, “For the record, DIZ categorically deny any claims of corruption and bribery, and reserve our rights on this matter.”
The statement also disclosed that Shamenda had made four surprise visits to the cement plant in the last four months, which prompted the company to complain about his conduct as it felt that the minister was deliberately looking for wrongdoing.
“DIZ was beginning to feel harassed and unwelcome in Zambia, and immediately brought this to the attention of the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry.”
Dangote Industries Zambia has 400 workers building a $400m cement plant, a staff count that should rise to 2,000 when production starts in November.
The company is owned by Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian, who according to Forbes, is Africa’s richest man.