The economic crunch experienced in 2008 left many young people jobless as industries closed and relocated to other regional countries. The situation today isn’t much changed. One town reeling under the effects is Chitungwiza, where young people have not been spared. Some have resorted to vending to earn a living, but even vending is now so crowded. Chitungwiza is a dormitory town and almost 80% of people who live in this town commute to Harare for work. Trading is now the major source of income for those who can’t commute to Harare. Most young people found here are college graduates, bricklayers or traders. A few who still have the energy have resorted to stone crushing to earn a living. This type of work is labor intensive. They use manual labor to crush big rocks to produce ¾ stones, which can be used as concrete for buildings. A ready market for these stones is already there because of new houses being constructed in Chitungwiza.
The stone crushers work on a small open space which council had abandoned because of the huge rocks, which made it difficult to put structures there.
A day starts with the burning of the rocks till they start showing signs of cracking. Some heavy pounding with big hammers follows resulting in the rocks peeling off into small chunks easy to crush using hammers. This type of work is very dangerous and one can lose a limb or an eye from the flying rock chips from the hammers.
Some of the stone crushers are skilled first class artisans in carpentry and some are builders. They got retrenched when the economy went up side down. Left without an alternative, stone crushing is now their only source of income. To make up a load these young men have to crush an average of 60 wheelbarrows worth of rock valued at US$150.
Working a normal day shift from 8am to around 4pm these young men feel at home when they are doing their work. Like one of them said, “I am earning an honest living and will only leave the quarry site when all the rocks have been cleared.” Most of them are married and they can afford to pay rents and buy food for their families.
I tried my hand on a few rocks but it was like hitting steel with steel, they even laughed at me saying I was weak. I was told with time they got used to the pain and they can crush stones every day.