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Chinese widow sues local company after death of husband

Lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde addressing journalists in Kampala. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A Chinese woman who lost her husband who was reportedly trafficked to Uganda is suing two companies and their chairperson, demanding more than one million dollars in compensation.

The lady identified as Wang Yong Jie is suing Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, Mahathi Infra Services PVT Limited together with their chairperson Yandapalli Ravi Shankar, following the death of 51-year-old Ji Zong Wu.

The evidence submitted before the High Court Civil Division in Kampala shows that the said companies were incorporated in Uganda on May 18th 2015, with the objective of carrying on an engineering, procurement and construction business along the shores of Lake Victoria in a project named Mahathi Fuel Transport and Storage Depot.

The petitioner contends that around the financial year 2016/2017 or thereabouts, the respondents and other persons whose names are presently unknown to her, unlawfully employed her husband and other migrant workers from China, India and elsewhere, on their construction site located in Bugiri, Bukasa village in Wakiso district.

Court records show that the site is for a construction of a 70 million litres oil terminal for the storage of gasoline, kerosene, diesel and jet A-1 fuel, construction of ships/oil tankers from the port city of Kisumu in Kenya to the site.

Through her lawyers of Centre for Legal Aid led by Isaac Ssemakadde, the widow contends that the deceased was an ordinary wood-cutting machine mechanic in Jilin Province, China until March 19th 2020, when he was trafficked into the country by traffickers disguising him as a tourist visiting Uganda for one month.

After entering Uganda, the deceased was reportedly received by Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, a company that is being accused of subjecting him to all manner of violations including but not limited to confiscation of his passport, overstaying his visa, forced and illegal employment.

The records show that the deceased was a simple machine fixer, and a man never trained for hazardous work on a shipyard 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 labor contract, no rights, meager pay, no health insurance, no work permit, no alien registration card, delayed pay and no sick leaves.

They also contend that more than a month ago, Zong passed on under unclear circumstances.

“On September 6, 2021, the plaintiff received a call from an unknown person who said that he was the husband’s supervisor at the project site in Uganda and he informed her that her husband had been admitted at International Hospital Kampala in critical condition. Five days later, the plaintiff received another phone call notifying her of her husband’s death”, reads the suit.

According to the evidence in court, the deceased died on September 11th 2021, from septicemia and the body is currently at Mulago National Referral Hospital as police investigates a case of homicide.

But according to Ssemakadde, the death of Zong is illegal because Mahathi Infra allegedly brought him in to work without work permits and until his death, this fact was hidden from the relevant authorizes in Uganda.

It’s for this reason that the widow wants the court to order the companies to compensate her with more than one million dollars (3.5 billion shillings) in for transport, cost of cremation and other burial expenses, general, aggravated and punitive damages for loss of a husband and sole bread winner.

The Civil Division registrar Jamson Karemani is yet to summon the companies to file their defense. The Uganda Captain Mike Mukula, who is said to be the Chairperson of Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited couldn’t be reached on phone call to give the company’s side of the story.



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