BY TENDAI MAKARIPE
THOUSANDS of residents in emerging settlements around Harare have resorted to unconventional methods of sand mining to earn a living in an unforgiving economy.
Sand mining is the extraction of sand usually from open pits.
Demand for sand, particularly pit sand – a natural and coarse type of sand used for construction — has increased over the past years with the establishment of various residential areas in cities and towns.
A survey by the Zimbabwe Independent in areas like Hopley, Harare revealed a heartrending scenario. Children of school-going age help their parents dig for pit sand in an area called kumajecha in Hopley.
“I was laid off in December last year and have no other means of income,” said Tichaona Mbedzi, a Hopley resident.
“Digging for pit sand has become a lucrative business here and it is really helping my family. That is why my children come and help me because they know that their bread is buttered here. The more we dig, the more we sell because pit sand is in high demand,” Mbedzi said.
“The majority of people here do not have jobs and we have nowhere else to get money to sustain our families,” said Felistas Zimbowa, another Hopley resident.
“I am a widow taking care of five children. I once tried vending in town but the money was not enough and I resorted to pit sand mining,” Zimbowa said.
In his study of Hopley settlement titled Living in an Emerging Settlement: The Story of Hopley Farm Settlement, Harare Zimbabwe, academic Abraham Matamanda said emerging settlements like Hopley are neglected spaces in which residents improvise to earn a living.
“These citizens experience multiple shocks and stresses, which include lack of basic services, disconnection from formal services and the urban core, political exclusion, and violation of their human rights. In this regard, households engage in various activities that fall between resilience and desperation as they try to navigate their way in claiming the right to the city,” Matamanda said.
Five cubic metres of pit sand, which is equivalent to one tonne, costs US$45 if one has own transport.
If the sellers provide their transport and personnel who load and offload the sand, the price shoots to US$60.
If one sells a truck of pit sand a day, he or she will rake in US$420 a week which is why people in Hopley and others are determined to continue this exercise.
Exposed burrows (areas where material, usually soil or sand, has been dug for use at another place or location) have become death traps.
They are now filled with runoff water from adjoining water bodies and become ponds.
Children are at risk of drowning in these ponds.
Some residents are digging pit sand around power lines and roads, exposing themselves and motorists to danger.