DEATH TRAP: Inside Sunbelt Textile Company Torture Chambers In Jinja


Forefront the Gates to the dreaded Sunbelt Textiles located on Walukuba Road in Masese Jinja, middle is Onapa Mathew lies in pain at the St James Orthopeadic and Surgery Hospital, and (r) Brian Onapa who survived the electric shock but has since been fired PHOTO MONTAGE/PATRICK JARAMOGI


Jinja, Uganda [SHIFTMEDIA] It is a norm for Ugandans working under ‘harsh’ conditions at the Jinja based Sunbelt Textiles Company Limited  to report to relevant authorities and remain not assisted.

The cries regarding torture, sexual molestation, abuse, failure to adhere to the required minimum working condition by these Chinese investors has been loud since the factory opened some years back.

Authorities in Jinja City have raised issue regarding poor working condition evident at this facility, but the ‘powers’ that bee keeps these Chinese adamant.

Last week we reported here how one mechanic, Mathew Onapa was heavily electrocuted by a 33KV power line as he went on with cleaning of the rooftop solar panels. He is still battling for life at the St James Orthopaedic and Surgery Hospital in Jinja.


Mathew Onapa battling for life after being electrocuted during work at Sunbelt factory in Masese Jinja


Sadly, fearing liabilities, the Chinese rushed to police and reported that the workers were stealing the solar panels. Brain Onapa, who survived the burns was detained at the Jinja Central Police Station for four days. It is only when the Tororo Local Government District Chairperson John Okeya intervened, was when Brian was released on Bond. Brian told this website yesterday (May 24 2023) that he wasn’t paid his money (Shs180,000) he was demanding for the two weeks he had worked, and was subsequently fired.

As we write this, Mathew Onapa whom doctors says had his entire genital burnt by the heavy voltage line is still battling his life at the St James Orthopedic and Surgical hospital in Jinja.


On Spot Check

After breaking the story, we did an impromptu visit at the plot 64-68 Walukuba road based factory. The entry was heavily resisted, the mood was somber, tension was high, as a team of officials from the Ministry of Gender, led by the Ass Commissioner for Labour (Occupational Safety), National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) and lawyers from the Voices of Labour led by the Executive Director Counsel Robinah Kagoye quizzed the Chinese investors.


Mathew Onapa admitted at the St James Hospital in Jinja

Scores of casual laborers we spoke too in confidence at the Factory talked of sexual abuse, hard working conditions, low pay, lack of protective working gears.

“It is just that I have no choice. I am a single mum, but what we go through here is hell. We are sexually molested, when you make noise you are fired,” said Shamim Nabakooza (not real names).

Nalufenya Torture Chambers

Dozens of workers told our investigative team how the Chinese have a torture chamber inside the plant where workers are tortured, and some raped during day light.

“We have Nalufenya inside here. It is a small room where workers are taken and tortured. We are clobbered, but we have nothing to do,” said another worker.

These are not new stories, in 2020, Rose Apunyo, one of the casual laborers revealed how one of her Chinese bosses attempted to rape.  “I woke up and realized that a man was undressing me in the middle of the night. I immediately shouted for help and he fled from the hall,” she said.


The Ass Commissioner Labor Safety (C) engages the Chinese Management at the Sunbelt Textile plant as Brian Onapa (R) who was accused of theft listens. He was later allowed to get treatment courtesy of the Sunbelt Management

Apunyo said despite reporting the matter to police, she has failed to follow it up because they are confined in the factory.

The management of the textile factory who speak through an interpreter identified as Chris denied the allegations. Chris told the team that any Chinese who is accused of molesting workers is immediately deported.

Joshua Bagoole, the workers Councilor for Jinja City had no kind words for the Chinese. “Our people work under hell here. I have tried as a person, and Jinja as a City to raise these issues, but no help since these people claim to have God fathers who are untouchable,” he said.

Voices for Labor Executive Director Robinah Kagoye said they would do whatever it takes to ensure such workers like Mathew Onapa and Brian Onapa get justice.

Another Worker Loses Finger

Apparently this is not the only case that has been exposed, majority ends up un noticed. On February 7 2023, a 24 year Senior Four student, Moses Oburu, who was hustling to raise shs 191,000 ($51) so as to pick his Senior Four results slip from Tororo lost a finger at the same factory. Oburu’s mother, Ayoo Rose, a HIV positive Widow told us from her village in Kisoko Dida how her dreams have been shattered following her sons injury.


Oburu Moses after a machine chopped off his thumb at the factory


“After sitting from S4 I had a fees balance of shs191,000, but since I am also struggling, I asked Oburu to get some job to do to raise the money so he would pick his held results,” said Ayoo. “After just about three weeks, I got a call that my son had lost a thumb as he worked at Sunbelt Factory. He was then fired and sent home minus any compensation of help,” explained the teary Ayoo. She said her efforts to get lawyers and government intervention has been futile given the powerful Chinese. “My son is now lame, he cannot do heavy work that is typical of a man. But I am appealing to government and relevant authorities to come to my rescue as a widow, single mother, and living positively,” she said.


Oburu told us how his dreams have been wiped away. “I was optimistic I would work, earn some money and clear the fees balance, but as I worked at the Sunbelt factory in the sewing department, a machine chopped off my thumb. We don’t have protective gears at the work place. I wasn’t paid any coin, but was sent packing,” said Oburu.

Sunbelt Management Speaks Out

The Chinese always have one excuse, they don’t know English, and speak through an interpreter, but the workers told us they harass them in English. But through their translator, a one Chris, the Management denied that Mathew Onapa was instructed to clean the solar panels. They insist, much as the two workers had worked in the plant for over six years, they were trying to steal the giant solar panel when the 333kv power line struck one. Chris also said any chines who harasses a worker is deported. They didn’t however show us the list of deported Chinese bosses over the years since the torturer claims have been for some years on record.

Usher Wilson Owere the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) Chairman General told this investigative website that all will be done to ensure justice prevails and the Chinese are put to order. “We cant sit and watch as our Ugandans continue to suffer. We shall push for the relevant laws and ensure whoever abused Ugandan workers is prosecuted,” said Owere

Shift Media News

Read Previous

FAMILY: CSOs Punch Holes On Uganda National Family Policy

Read Next

STIGMA: Government Urged To Invest In Menstrual Health, And Address Harmful Practices That Depict Menstruation As Dirty

Leave a Reply