Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mucheke scrap metal business: Of child labour, desperation

Children having their scrap metal weighed at the Mucheke light industrial site

Triader Chipunza

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

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

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.


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