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Impoverished residents of Epworth turn to sand poaching in cemetery

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By Mary Mundeya, Africa News


HARARE: For years, illegal sand mining otherwise known as sand poaching has been a growing cancer in Zimbabwe. Thousands of hectares of land in the country’s capital city, Harare have been left extensively damaged

“We have resorted to sand poaching and brick laying because there are no jobs. It’s easy for us to find the sand we need because its easily accessible at at the nearby graveyard. We have to survive even if it means breaking the law.A lot of young man in this community are into the venture”. one sand poacher told our correspondent.

With places where a sizable amount of sand can be illegally mined dwindling everyday, sand poachers have resorted to digging in a cemetery in one of Harare’s high density suburbs, Epworth. Not only are they exhuming the dead in their bid to get sand, they are also disposing corpses they would have dug up in a nearby river, a move that has upset residents whose buried relatives are disappearing each day

The areas community leaders are concerned. “As a community leader who had taken part in the burial of more than 100 kids, I’m saddened that a huge chunk of the graves at which we laid them to rest has disappeared, all that left is a shallow ditch”.

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Another laments about the condition of some of the graves. “Some of the graves are now exposed. The sand poachers have removed a lot of corpses and thrown them in the nearby river”.

Government authorities are not unaware of the situation.

“What you find is currently within particularly Chitungwiza and Epworth. We have got rampant sand poaching. Sand poachers are basically going into areas where there is river sand and any other form of sand used for construction”, says Tafadzwa Muguti, secretary for provinvial affairs and devolution in the office of the president and cabinet for Harare Metropolitan province.

“The challenge we have as we approach the rain season is that when the rains come and fill up most of these places we have children who will drown. As it is our laws need to be reviewed. EMA, our environmental management authority is in the process of reviewing all their ACTS so that we can criminalize most of the aspects of land degradation”.

Known for its famous monuments (The balancing rocks) Epworth, one of Harare’s forgotten surburb has for years been subject to illegal sand mining otherwise known as sand poaching. It remains to be seen whether thousands of hectares of land in Epworth’s Zinyengere’s cemetery will recover from the immense environmental degradation its being subjected to on a daily basis.