KAMPALA, UGANDA: A Chinese woman, Ms. Yong Yie Wang has taken to court Capt. Mike Mukula, the Chairman of Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited an Indian ship firm seeking justice over the mysterious death of her husband, Ji Zong Wu which happened on September 11, 2021, at International Hospital Kampala (IHK).
With help of Centre for Legal Aid led by city lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, Ms. Yie contends that her husband Zong Wu, 51, who is a former employee of Mahathi Infra Uganda limited met his death due to alleged negligence and exploitation from his employers, among whom is Mike Mukula, the NRM vice Chairman for Eastern Region.
Speaking to journalists at the press conference held on Wednesday at Club Obligato in Kampala, Lawyer Ssemakadde said the late Ji Zong Wu at the time of forced labour in Kawuku – Entebbe was an ordinary wood-cutting machine mechanic in Jilin Province, China until 19 March 2020 when he was trafficked into the country being disguised as a tourist visiting Uganda for one month.
Upon arrival in Uganda, Ssemakadde says the Chinese national 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 never trained for hazardous work on a shipyard, Ji Zong Wu was forced to do welding 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 wondered.
Ssemakadde further claims that its investigations indicate that the people who trafficked Wu into the country are “highly connected to a few rogue elements in the government” and officials at the law organization believe the Chinese man feared these well-connected individuals and became “submissive to the Mahathi’s oppression to the point of death!” According to Ssemakadde, Mahathi Infra brought Wu to work in Uganda without a permit.
Death of Ji Zong Wu
According to Lawyer Ssemakadde, Zong Wu who died on September 11, 2021, was initially suspected of having contracted a disease that would have alarmed Ugandans (gangrene), 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,” said Ssemakadde. “They do not give them sufficient income and do not pay National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and PAYE dues for these workers.”
He also claimed that the majority of the workers at Mahathi Infra are Chinese and Indians “which means that they are denying Ugandans the chance to do even menial work” because “many migrant workers at the Mahathi site are dishwashers, cleaners, and drivers of pickups, etc, which is something Ugandans can do.”
Ssemakadde further said that 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.
Ssemakadde has now urged government to “quickly investigate this matter and bring the culprits of this barbaric act to book as soon as possible” as well as Beijing “to step in and fight for the justice of their citizens.”
”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 said.
The Chinese widow also demands a compensation sum of One Million USD in compensation from Mahathi Infra for their negligence, alleged human sacrifice and trafficking which led to the death of his husband.
“The plaintiff brings this suit for declarations, a claim for USD 1,000,000 (United States Dollars One Million Only) In special, general, aggravated and punitive damages, as well as interest and costs of the suit,” reads in part the sue notice served.
Ssemakadde and his organization have also expressed concern over the fact 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 is removed from HMV Kabaka Mutebi, the ship that is built by this company which seeks to manipulate the name of the Kabaka,” added Centre for Legal Aid in their statement. “We are astounded by the fact that the Katikkiro of Buganda did not do enough due diligence on the company which would have otherwise averted this dilemma.”
Centre for Legal aid has equally made it clear that former minister and NRM bigwig Capt Mike Mukula, who is said to be the chairperson of Mahathi Infra “has a case to answer” and should “account for these problems.”
The organization has further called on the US government, the United Nations, International Labor Organization (ILO), and other international organizations to blacklist Mahathi Infra for “these acts of human trafficking in Uganda.