Author: Andrew Brooks.
Brooks, Andrew. 2010. "Spinning and Weaving Discontent: Labour Relations and the Production of Meaning at Zambia-China Mulungushi Textiles." Journal of Southern African Studies 36 (1): 113-132. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057071003607360
Chinese engagement in Africa is an increasingly prescient and important subject for academic discourse on globalisation generally, and African political economy particularly, but local scale impacts of new Chinese investments have not been sufficiently addressed. The Mulungushi Textile Factory in Kabwe, Zambia, has a long association with China. New Chinese capitalist investment established the ‘Zambia-China Mulungushi Textiles Joint Venture Ltd.’ in 1997, rehabilitating a dilapidated industrial site. Through detailed ethnographic research this article explores how this specific Chinese engagement affected the lives of the Zambians who worked at Mulungushi Textiles. Using the lived experiences of ex-workers, changes to the social pattern of work are examined illustrating how a Zambian state model of labour organisation was replaced by a neo-liberal exploitative form at this globalised site. Wages were suppressed through casualisation, working conditions worsened and strict discipline was imposed. Workers did not gain the modern livelihoods they anticipated and through labour struggles, meanings and understandings of racial differences were produced and anger towards the Zambian state was articulated. Labour disputes, financial difficulties and increasing competition in the globally liberalised textile and clothing markets, diminished the enterprise's viability and Chinese investment abandoned Mulungushi in 2006.