Simbarashe Fenton M
The failure by the government to revive Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) has relagated majority former workers and residents into desparation as gathering and selling of scrap metal has become an alternative for survival.
The closure of ZISCO Steel more than a decade ago left the majority of people in Redcliff unemployed. The means of production scarce such that life has become hard to navigate, especially during the Covid-19 era which has worsened the economic situation in the country.
“Life has not been well for a very long time now. We are suffering so we realized that we can take advantage of the former mine environment, we then formed and registered a company which buys and sells scraper. We buy cans, steel sheets, car boards, light, blister steel, light and heavy metal hoping to get better returns as well as to help out people in our community who are having a hard time to survive,” said Thomas Banda, Director of Narturgy Investments a Small Medium Enterprise based in Torwood.
In the midst of the corona virus pandemic and the continued deteriorating economy, an individual is surviving on less than a dollar per day, with no other option at hand but to opt for gathering of scrap that include tins, cans, car boards, light and heavy metal from rubbish dump sites.
On daily basis families, men, women and children as young as 5-years old are seen trooping up and down waste and mine dump sites digging and ferrying cans and rusty scrap to sell. Those involved say that the process is very hard, demands a lot of work, time and energy for one to be able to come up with a tone which has a slightly reasonable price.
“I cannot just stay at home without food, I need to take care of my family. My husband passed on a long time ago and I have my mother who has a heart problem. She need medication which is expensive. So together with my three children we go to look for scraper and we hardly reach a tonne because it is a difficult task. So we sell whatever we manage and get some bond notes but the money is not enough.
“I would rather go out with my family to look for money for our needs than to stay indoors in fear of Covid-19. It is better to die trying, my kids understand our situation, we need help…” said a mother of three whose identity cannot be revealed on the grounds of confidentiality.
According to Banda, a tone of canes and other scrap metals costs rtgs$2 500, light heavy scrap which include car boards and steel sheets about rtgs$3 500 and heavy scrape metal about rtgs$5 000 per tonne which dealers, companies such as Narturgy Investments sell to steel manufacturing companies such as Steel Makers, Express Mines and other aluminium foundry molding companies. Comparing with the amount of effort individuals put, the money is way too low hence it cannot do much.
Non-Governmental Organisations such as Plan International, Hope of Saints Charity Organisation have also chipped in to help Redcliff residents by donating money and groceries. However the donations are not enough as more families are in need of help.
14-year- old Tinashe (not his real name), laments hunger as the main drive in his involvement of scrap gathering. He says sometimes he skip school in order to gather more so that there is enough money to buy mealie meal and other necessities for his mother.
“I never thought I would do this at this age, all I want is to do well at school so that I take care of my mother but hunger is the main issue and at times we go to bed without eating anything. That hurts me especially to see my mother like this. We could not make it on the Plan programme,” he said.
Commenting on the welfare of the residents, ward 2 councilor, Councilor Munikwa weighed in by acknowledging that the standards of living for Redcliff residents have deteriorated drastically in the Covid-19 era.
“The living standards of people have deteriorated so drastically during this Covid period with most people survive through Kukurokoza. The situation has forced people to live in their house without proper source of income. The closure of Zisco Steel also affected downstream industries which leaves most of the people without formal jobs.
“The selling and gathering of steel scraps is not enough for the people to make ends meet as only few can be engaged in this activity and also the scraps are being sold at low price. It also takes a lot of time to gather scrap while children are starving. There are also risks of stealing council and PTC (TelOne) properties resulting in these people to be prosecuted,” he said.
Redcliff legislator Lloyd Mukapiko acknowledged the need for the revival of ZISCO banking on the perennial promises of the government. He underscored the need for such a development as people’s lives are depending on it.
“The Zisco steel issue is under consideration, we have been talking about it at parliament through the Committee on Industry and Commerce so that it is revived. We hope that the government will see it through. The reality is that government promises can only be believed once something is done on the ground.
“Unfortunately some of the proposed deals flopped on last minute basis, so we do not have assurance that the company will reopen soon. We have a lot of issues pertaining Zisco Steel former workers such as pension funds, if they were able to get their pension for the mean time and able to cater for their families. They wouldn’t be found wanting and be on the situation where they rely on scrap gathering for a living.
We are pushing as well as through the committee and praying that the deals will pull through this year as anticipated. It is very sad to see people living like this…”said Mukapiko.
This development comes at a time the United Nations predicted that more than 5 million people in Zimbabwe are in serious poverty and in need of help especially during the Covid-19 era where most of the informal business practices have been disrupted.