By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited’s Chairman in Uganda Capt.Mike Mukula, who happens to be President Museveni’s Vice Chairman in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, in charge of the Eastern region, is in hot soup! Mukula is being accused of allegedly ”aiding” the death of a 51-year-old Chinese man, Ji Zong Wu on October 11, 2021, in a company, where he’s (Mukula) the chairman.
Where Does It Stem From?
According to lawyer Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid, who is the counsel for Zong’s widow Wang Yong Yie, Ji Zong Wu (51) was an ordinary wood-cutting machine mechanic in Jilin Province, China until 19 March 2020 when he was trafficked into the country by traffickers disguising him as a tourist visiting Uganda for one month.
After entering Uganda, Ssemakadde says Zong was received by Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, a company that subjected him to all manner of violations including but not limited to confiscation of his passport, overstaying his visa, forced and illegal employment, and finally death due to the company’s outrageous negligence.
”A naive simple machine fixer and a man who never trained for hazardous work on a shipyard, Ji Zong Wu was forced to do weldings and metal-grinding work in a crowded and poorly ventilated environment for many hours a day for almost 18 months with no labour contract, no rights, meagre pay, no health insurance, no work permit, no alien registration card, delayed pay and no sick leaves,” Ssemakadde told journalists in a press conference on Wednesday at Club Obligato,Bombo road.
”From our investigations, his traffickers were highly connected to a few rogue elements in the government — an advantage the traffickers used to disadvantage, threaten and intimidate all those who appeared to raise voices over the poor working conditions. It’s for this reason that Mr. Ji Zong Wu was submissive to the Mahathi’s oppression to the point of death!” adds Ssemakadde.
Widow Wang Flies into Uganda To Demand Justice For Late Husband
According to Wang Yong Yie, aged 51, she trekked the long journey from China supported by friends who financed her travel, to seek justice for her husband.
With no remorse for the death of Zong Wu, Wang Yong says Mahathi Infra refused to compensate her for the loss of her husband, the breadwinner for the surviving dependents. She says Zong was the caretaker of his 80-year-old mother and an 18-year-old daughter.
”Subsequently, Mahathi Infra exerted undue influence and a campaign of misinformation and/or disinformation on the clearly distressed, illiterate, grief-stricken, feeble and vulnerable widow of Ji Zong Wu to abandon the path of justice and “simply return to China” — because this company is apparently a consortium of untouchables,” says Ssemakadde.
But What Killed Zong?
According to Ssemakadde, Zong Wu was initially suspected of having contracted a disease known as gangrene, which would have alarmed Ugandans, although the physicians at IHK eventually ruled this out.
He says for that reason, his illness was concealed and he was neglected because the company did not want to publicize his condition knowing its consequences on the health of Ugandans.
”The employees operate in horrendous conditions. The company does not comply with labour laws, and local content rules and regulations. They bring in foreign labour without work permits and they detain their passports without informing their families,” adds Ssemakadde.
He further alleges that the company doesn’t give workers sufficient income and do not pay National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and PAYE dues for these workers.
”The majority of the workers of this company are Chinese and Indians which means that they are denying Ugandans the chance to do even menial work. For example, many migrant workers at the Mahathi site are dishwashers, cleaners and drivers of pickups, etc, which is something Ugandans can do,” Ssemakadde adds., ”The company is also engaged in International Human Trafficking, forced labour, and servitude.”
According to Migration DataPortal, Human Trafficking is growing leaps and bounds across the world. In 2020, there were 108,613 individual cases of human trafficking, from 164 countries of exploitation and involving 17 nationalities.
The Official of National Statistics (UK) (2020) notes that there were 5,144 modern slavery offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 51% from the previous year.
Human Sacrifice Allegations
Ssemakadde says Mahathi’s deliberate actions such as delaying treatment of Zong, denying him optimum and adequate treatment, failure to repatriate him to China where he could get optimum treatment and care, concealing his sickness from his family until only 84 hours before his death perfectly syncs with allegations that some foreign construction companies in Uganda are deeply involved in human sacrifice for the success of their projects.
”We, therefore, call upon the government of Uganda to quickly investigate into this matter and bring the culprits of this barbaric act to book as soon as possible. We also call upon the government of China to step in and fight for the justice of their citizen, Mr. Ji,” he says adding thus;
”We are also concerned that the malaise at this company and its operations have dragged the name of His Royal Highness Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the Kabaka of Buganda into an image crisis. We demand that Kabaka’s name be removed from HMV Kabaka Mutebi, the ship that is built by this company that seeks to manipulate the name of the Kabaka.”
Ssemakadde says that Katikkiro of Buganda did not do enough due diligence on the company which would have otherwise averted this dilemma.
Meanwhile, he vows against Company’s Chairman Mike Mukula and requests international human rights organizations to blacklist the company;
”We hold the Chairperson of this company, Captain Mike Mukula to account for these problems. He has a case to answer. We urge the US government, the United Nations, International Labor Organization (ILO) and other international organizations to blacklist this company for these acts of human trafficking in Uganda.”
Our repeated calls to Capt Mukula for a comment yielded no fruits as he simply sent a text thus; “Can’t talk now”.