With no jobs, several youths in New Mazwi have resorted to unregulated sand poaching to eke a living.
In Mazwi village, a peri-urban settlement adjacent to Pumula Old suburb in Bulawayo, sand poaching is a favourite pastime and a source of income for the unemployed youth in the community. Mazwi village is partly urban and rural, with villagers relying on boreholes and firewood. With a housing construction boom, illegal sand poaching by the unemployed youth is a lucrative business as there is a ready market.
This is despite the fact that the vice leaves a lot of environmental hazards and causes land degradation. The sand poachers also leave unclaimed pits that pose a danger to residents. According to concerned community members, the lack of empowerment projects and jobs drives the youth to illegal sand poaching activities.
An environmental training session of 11 environment committee members was recently held at New Mazwi to empower the community with knowledge on environment conservation and beneficiation.
Roy Ndlovu, who survives on sand poaching, says council and residents need to find a win-win solution to sand poaching activities. “There is no need to have sand miners and Bulawayo City Council (BCC) rangers fighting each other over sand. There is a need to have a sustainable solution between residents, council and sand poachers,” Ndlovu says.
BCC rangers are often seen in running battles with sand poachers. “Chasing each other in the forests is not a solution. There should be a solution to the problem because we are all benefiting from this sand.” Each truckload fetches anything between US$80 and US100.
According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), areas like Cowdray Park, Entumbane, Mpopoma, St Peters, and Luveve are where there is rampant sand poaching. “Council should not be arrogant. Our entire houses need that sand for construction. Let us come up with a good strategy rather than playing a hide and seek game,” Ndlovu adds.
New Mazwi Village Development committee member Sinanzeni Mabaso, says the environment committee will go a long way in raising awareness against illegal sand poaching. “Our biggest challenge is sand poaching happening in the area as youth have no jobs. Pits are left open, and we have lost some of our livestock in those pits,” Mabaso says.
In February, a 15-year-old Pelandaba West boy drowned in the suburb in an abandoned pit. The same hole claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl who drowned in December 2020.
“The youth have no other means to be occupied with, and they partake in sand poaching to make money. We welcome any well-wishers who might want to sponsor them to engage in activities that promote their livelihood. Even if they are to get very little from the projects, at least they will be engaging in legal activities, unlike sand poaching,” Mabaso adds.
New Mazwi Development Committee vice-chairperson Judith Ndlovu says: “The formation of the committee will enable us to learn how to benefit economically from the environment.”
BCC recently declared war on sand poachers, impounding their trucks and arresting the culprits. The local authority says sand poachers are also stealing sand earmarked for the ongoing road rehabilitation programme and causing serious land degradation.
Ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo speaking during a residents meeting recently, says the problem of sand poaching has gone out of hand in her ward, which includes the New Mazwi area. She says rampant sand poaching is escalating the rate of soil erosion in the area and may lead to more damage to infrastructure.
“We recently had a meeting with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and other stakeholders to try and address the sand poaching problem here, and we still have a long way to go to address this challenge,” she says.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin