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Living on scraps: the Zimbabwe children who eke out a living from rusty metal

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BY NYASHA CHINGONO

The rattling of metal can be heard yards away from the scrapyard.

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A steady trickle of people struggle in: small children laden with sacks of tins and bits of car engines, and adults with handfuls of jagged objects, unidentifiable beneath the rust.

Some push handcarts as scrapyard attendants take turns to weigh the metal brought in, then hand over a few dirty US dollar notes in return.

Children are regulars amid the hustle and bartering that Zimbabwe’s poorest are resorting to in order to eat.

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With the economic crisis ever deepening, Unicef says 47% of Zimbabwean youth have now dropped out of school.

Most of the children here in Hopley, 16km from the capital, Harare, have not been in class since the Covid pandemic began and are not returning due to rising poverty.

Colin Mapuranga (not his real name), 15, and his brother Mike are at the scrapyard, in torn T-shirts and shorts, and tell a tale of hardship in troubled Zimbabwe.

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Colin and Mike keep an eye on the scale as it reaches 30kg. For that, and their five hours of collecting it, they are handed US$10 (£8.50).

“It is not much, but it is something,” says Colin, tucking the notes into his pocket. “It’s not easy. We woke early and walked for hours to get metal.”

With the money, they will buy food for the day and maybe something from the piles of secondhand clothes sold in Harare’s open spaces.

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For now, school fees are a luxury they cannot afford.

Colin says: “We must work harder – maybe one day we will afford to go back to school.

Our older sister, who is 18, cannot pay for our fees. She wakes up every day to look for menial jobs.

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So we must help her or we will starve.”

Inflation hit 192 percent in June, and all but the very rich are struggling.

Children are abandoning school to take up menial tasks to help put food on the table.

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An average family here needs 120,000 Zimbabwe dollars (£308) a month to survive, according to the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency, an amount beyond the reach of many.

While food prices rise, the currency has also tumbled in value during the first half of the year, and millions face acute hunger, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Unicef says that nearly one in three  five to17-year-olds in the country are engaged in child labour.

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Child-headed families like Colin’s are finding things especially tough.

The parents of the three siblings died three years ago, and the children were left to fend for themselves in a small house in Hopley, a settlement created in 2005 after street trader families were displaced from Harare by the late president Robert Mugabe in a clearout of city streets.

The initiative was called Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Trash).

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“We barely have enough to eat, but this metal business has helped us get by. Some days are tougher – you can get as little as $3 (£2.50) for light metal,” says Colin.

As the brothers leave the scrapyard, Jeremiah Magunda, 42, and his three sons, all under 15, arrive to weigh in their metal. They are disappointed at the reading. They will go home with $7.

Magunda and the boys have been scrounging for metal objects around Hopley since the onset of Covid.

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“I came here with my sons to try my luck. We are suffering. I used to be a gold panner, but since I hurt my finger I stopped.

“My sons have been doing it when I am not around,” Magunda tells the Guardian.

Mercy Muzvidzwa, 42, is pushing a wheelbarrow of scrap with her two children.

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They wake at 5am to scour surrounding neighbourhoods. This is her only source of income, she says. “I have been doing this for the past four years. You cannot just sit at home; life is not that kind, and my children need to eat.

“It is tough to be carrying heavy metal but there are no options. I go out with my children every day, they always help me.”

This scrapyard belongs to local dealer Fungai Mataga. “I buy all the scrap metal here.

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“I sell to steel manufacturers at profit, which is not much,” he says.

Mataga admits that school-age children are his main suppliers.

“We have a lot of children and women coming here daily to deliver scrap metal.

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“They still have strength to walk around,” he says.

Under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who wrested power from Mugabe in 2017, Zimbabwe has witnessed an economic tailspin, with politicians blamed for doing little to ease a hunger crisis that has followed poor rains.- The Guardian

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Supporting those who served: MPs debate war veterans’ benefits

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Image: Parliament of Zimbabwe

BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI

The children of Zimbabwe’s war veterans are crying out for help, and it’s time we answer,” said Tendai Pinduka, sparking a passionate debate in the National Assembly. The recent discussion was prompted by a petition from the Children of War Veterans and Heroes Dependents Forum, which called for economic empowerment and support for war veterans and their families.

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As the Members of Parliament (MPs) shared their personal experiences and concerns, the room was filled with emotion. “We need to honour our heroes and recognize their sacrifices,” said Madron Matiza, citing the Bible’s teaching that “those who have worked deserve to be given food.” He urged his fellow MPs to listen to the voices of war veterans and support their ideas and contributions.

Susan Matsunga, a child of a war veteran herself, shared her painful experiences and called for action.

“We need to implement plans to support war veterans and their children, including access to education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. We owe it to them.”

The MPs emphasized the importance of amending the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act to consider children of war veterans seeking further education beyond the age of 18. Others stressed that the Constitution and the Act guarantee the rights and benefits of veterans of the liberation struggle and their dependents.

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“We need to fully fund the War Veterans Fund to support their welfare and economic empowerment,” he said Kudakwashe Mananzva added, “This is not just about benefits; it’s about honouring the sacrifices of our parents.”

As the debate came to a close, Desire Nkala summarized the MPs’ sentiments: “We must support war veterans and their children, particularly in education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. We must implement the War Veterans Act and consider all who contributed to the liberation struggle.”

The National Assembly’s debate sent a clear message: Zimbabwe’s war veterans and their families deserve recognition, support, and empowerment. As Pinduka said, “We must answer the cry for help from our heroes’ children.”

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Health ministry grapples with malaria, diarrhea, and dog bite cases

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BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI 

According to the latest Disease Surveillance Report released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe, the country is facing a significant burden of three major health issues: malaria, common diarrhea, and dog bites.

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Malaria cases on the rise

In the week ending July 7, 2024, Zimbabwe reported 476 new malaria cases and two deaths. The majority of the cases (79) were children under the age of five. Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces were the hardest hit, with 205 and 118 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, the country has recorded 31,757 malaria cases and 57 deaths.

Diarrhea cases continue to soar

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The report also indicates that 6,520 common diarrhea cases and two deaths were reported in the same week. The deaths occurred in Harare Province and Mbire District in Mashonaland Central Province. Children under five accounted for 2,930 of the reported cases. Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East provinces reported the highest number of cases, with 933 and 930 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, Zimbabwe has recorded 175,551 diarrhea cases and 60 deaths.

Dog bites on the increase

Furthermore, 486 dog bite cases were reported, with no fatalities. Notably, 104 of the cases involved bites from vaccinated dogs, while 115 involved unvaccinated dogs, and 266 involved dogs of unknown status. Masvingo Province and Mashonaland East Province reported the highest number of dog bite cases, with 82 and 81 cases, respectively. Cumulatively, the country has recorded 14,093 dog bite cases.

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The Ministry of Health and Child Care urges citizens to take preventive measures to mitigate the spread of these diseases.

For malaria, this includes using insecticide-treated bed nets, wearing protective clothing, and eliminating breeding sites for mosquitoes.

To prevent diarrhea, the ministry recommends practicing good hygiene, drinking clean water, and seeking medical attention if symptoms persist.

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Regarding dog bites, the ministry advises people to avoid stray dogs, ensure their pets are vaccinated, and seek medical attention immediately if bitten.

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Lupane man (23) on the run for brutal murder of 84-year-old granny

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BY STAFF REPORTER

Police in Lupane are hunting for a 23–year-old man who is being sought for murdering his 84-year-old grandmother on unknown circumstances.

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The suspect, Logic Nyathi, allegedly murdered Lucy Sibanda of Mlonyeni village, on Friday around 3PM.

According to the police statement, the deceased’s daughter, Simangele Sibanda, had been trying to reach her mother by phone but was unsuccessful. She then asked Zamani Vundla, a neighbor, to check on her mother. Upon arrival, Vundla discovered the deceased’s lifeless body in a pool of blood, with deep cuts on her head and neck.

The police investigation revealed that the deceased was sitting on the sofa, holding a knife, and had been eating an orange half-cut on the dining table.

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Blood stains were found outside the room, indicating a struggle and she had also been axed multiple times on head, the neck and the back.

Police said the murder weapon has not been recovered, and  Nyathi remains at large.

“The body of the deceased was taken to St Lukes hospital mortuary awaiting post mortem examination, the investigations are still underway.” the report read.

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Meanwhile, Lupane police have dismissed the social media claims that the fugitive had been found in a bush after committing suicide.

 

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