The expansion of Msasa Park has provided a ready market for stone crushers at the expense of the environment and human health.
Shingirai Vhundura, a builder, decided to augment his sporadic earnings by venturing into stone crushing. He works at a spot between Msasa Park and Zimphos where granite rocks are plentiful. His day begins at 8 o’clock, collecting rocks using a wheelbarrow and he then starts breaking these into smaller pieces using a four pound hammer. The job is repetitive and physically demanding. Vhundura said that he, together with other stone crushers, have resorted to digging up rocks as there are few loose rocks on the surface. They have devised a plan to weaken the rocks. “We burn old car tyres on the rocks and due to the great heat followed by the cool night temperatures the rocks start to crack. We sell a wheelbarrow-full for $2.” Vhundura says 5 cubic metres (60 wheel barrows) sells for US$120, adding that when a buyer wants that quantity they pool their resources and sell collectively.
Edmore Murwira, another stone crusher who works with his wife and children, said he was forced to rope in his family to up his daily production. “The children go around pick-ing up stones while my husband and I do the crushing,” said Mrs Murwira, Edmore’s wife. She complained about the transporters who act as middlemen, saying, “When buyers approach these truck owners wanting to buy quarry stones they are told that 5 cubic metres costs $200 and the transporter pockets the difference. On top of that, transportation cost of between $20–$50 per load is charged,” she lamented.
Murwira said their market base has been boosted by the construction taking place at the nearby Msasa Park suburb, which is rapidly expanding. According to him, the stones are used for making slabs, lintels, concrete, and for other building related uses.
City of Harare spokesperson Michael Chideme, when asked about the issue referred Harare News to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for comment. “That is more of an environmental issue, please contact EMA,” he said.
According to Steady Kangata, EMA spokesperson, manual stone crushing is now a growing phenomenon that can impact the environment. “This is new, it wasn’t there all along. Previously mechanical stone crushing was done after an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) had been carried out. We are working on this new scenario because mostly these people work on land not ear marked for development and at times they burn tyres that pollute the environment,” he said. He added that people also open pits to access the rocks and that this causes erosion and pools that are dangerous to human and animals.
Rock crushing produces quarry dust which is harmful when inhaled. Most hard rocks contain silica which can cause fatal respiratory hazards like lung cancer, bronchitis, and silicosis. These people are working without masks and the tyres they burn produce fumes that are dangerous.