Poor Zimbabweans turn to scrap metal trade as inflation bites

HARARE, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Shepherd Chowe pushes a cart full of tin cans, iron rods and other metal objects down a dusty path in Hopley, a poor village about 15km west of the capital from Zimbabwe, Harare.

It’s 11 a.m. and Chowe, 46, has arrived at a scrap yard where dozens of scrap metal workers are waiting to sell their wares. For two bags, Chowe is paid $6.

“I start moving around the township at 8 a.m. … asking people for scrap metal or anything metallic that they no longer use,” Chowe said, adding that on good days he brought in $40. at home.

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Chowe is among Zimbabweans selling scrap metal to survive as the cost of living soars, putting pressure on a population already facing food shortages and high unemployment, a reminder of the economic chaos a while ago. years under the nearly four-decade reign of veteran leader Robert Mugabe.

Annual inflation, which hit 256.9% in July, cast a shadow over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s attempt to revitalize the economy.

By selling scrap metal, Chowe can afford to pay rent, buy food and pay school fees for his two daughters.

“Scrap gave us hope,” Chowe said.

Zimbabwe’s steel industry has been struggling since the collapse of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel) more than a decade ago.

However, in recent years, small steel producers working with scrap metal dealers have been picking up the pieces.

“These scavengers help the steel industry that we supply. Sometimes they (steel workers) run out of money to pay us, but the metal is always available,” scrapyard owner Fungai Mataga said, as workers loaded the metal onto a lorry heading for Kwekwe in the Midlands, the home of steelworks.

Mataga buys cast iron at $0.15 per kg and mild steel at $0.22 per kg from scavengers.

“They all come here to sell (metal) to survive,” he said.

The scrap metal trade is not illegal in Zimbabwe, but has raised concerns about vandalism of infrastructure, including that of the Zimbabwe National Railway Company, which has called for the trade to be regulated.

As Chowe leaves the junkyard, 19-year-old Mike Mavhunga arrives laden with bags of cans.

Every day, he gets up at 5 a.m. to walk 10 km to Glen Norah, a township west of Harare, his metal hunting ground.

“My goal is to get at least two scrap bags, which gets me $6. But on tough days, I get $1 or $1.50,” Mavhunga said. “That’s how I survive.”

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Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Alison Williams

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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