MASVINGO - Located near the KwaVaMuzenda heritage site in the ‘Kuma R’ section of Mucheke A residential suburb, a scrap metal market has become a hub of activity as poor residents and children bring their findings for sell.
Some very young children seen by TellZim News gathering scrap metal said they come from desperate family backgrounds where they struggle to find enough food.
As a result, they spend several hours of the day scavenging for scrap metal from dumped car bodies and other sources.
Materials of interest include aluminium, copper and steel pieces which are sold to people who operate the nearby light industries.
“This is an opportunity for us to make some money for our families because it doesn’t require anything but your energy to dig and gather up the required materials so that you can earn your US dollars,” said one 10-year-old boy who cannot be named for ethical reasons.
Two other children who live close-by said they surrender all their daily earnings to their single mother who uses the money to buy them food and other household requirements.
“Our mother does not earn much from her job as a vendor so we have to support her by working hard in the scrap metal fields,” said one of the two boys.
All the children professed ignorance of the Children’s Act or any other statutes that forbid child labour.
An eight-year-old girl said she was excited by an opportunity to make money in this protracted period of national lockdown.
“I am pleased to be able to make some money for my mother because schools are closed and we don’t have any other thing to do. I wouldn’t like sitting around at home the whole day without anything to do because there is no enough food there,” said the minor.
Buyers of the scrap metal use it to make all sorts of tools and equipment including scotch carts, wheelbarrows and burglar bars.
Some of the metal is also transported to Harare where it reportedly fetches higher returns when resold by local buyers.
One of the local buyers is Tarisai Gumbo who said business had boomed since the closure of schools at towards the end of March.
“There has been an increase in the delivery of the metal since the closure of schools as the lockdown loomed. Most of our clients are school children who do it on behalf of their families that live in the hostels.
“It’s concerning that children have to work for their families but these are mostly poor families around here. It’s either the children stay at home and starve or their parents send them to the dumpsites to look for scrap metals and earn money to buy some food,” he said.
Much of the light scrap metal from such items as old plates and pots fetches US$0.60 per kg locally but it reportedly fetches much more when resold in Harare. Heavier scrap metal fetches much more than that.