By Samuel Takawira
Despite the intense heat, scores of people in Budiriro 5 suburb in Harare are seen jostling up and down the degraded ground that lies at the heart of the suburb.
Much to the surprise of 263Chat, most of the people who are desperately rummaging through stones are women while some of them carry their babies on their backs as they work.
In a visit to the scene, 263Chat was greeted by a faint cry of a baby who has been left under the shade as the mother searches for construction stones, which are used for concrete mixture.
The business of hand crushing of stones to quarry has gained popularity and is not only limited to Budiriro. The business has flourished in the country as people fail to secure employment in the formal sector.
The country’s economic situation, which has lasted more than decade, has seen more women join work that has customarily been deemed the sphere of men.
A woman in her thirties, carrying a shovel and a metal dish, outpace the rest of the women as she ran towards the 263Chat reporter anticipating that the reporter was a prospective buyer.
After establishing that we were not a potential buyer, she shifts her attention to a Toyota Hilux that was approaching.
The woman is just one of the many women who have been forced into the hunt for stones to eke a living.
Shamiso Makombe narrated her ordeal, describing how she ended up scavenging and crushing construction stones for survival.
“I started foraging stones late last year and I’m still here hunting for stones and will continue to do so as long as there are no other means for survival,” she said.
She boosted of her ability to send all her kids to school from the stone earnings.
“I have managed to send my three kids to school as a result of excavating the ground for stones,” said Makombe.
Evidently, even though faces of hardships cover the scene, hope still springs eternal, making it a case study of Zimbabwean people who continue to hold hope despite the economic meltdown.
When business is good, they make as much as $600 in one month from quarry sales, which they sell to all those who are in the process of constructing houses.
Precious Ndiya who is also a stone scavenger applauded the stone scavenging business.
“When business is good you take home $260 in one week and with this amount one can live a normal life,” said Ndiya.
Ten 50kg loads of quarry stones cost $130 and it takes about four days to crush and almost a month to get customers who are now scarce because of tight competition.
There are no clear figures about the total number of women in the informal sector. However, in 2012 the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency said 3.7 million of the country’s 13.7 million Zimbabweans worked in the informal sector.