BY PRESTIGE MUNTANGA
ILLEGAL sand poachers are now targeting undeveloped housing stands in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb, leaving unclaimed pits that pose a danger to children.
Two children drowned in one of the unclaimed pits in 2020.
Cowdray Park residents said the illegal sand poachers frequented the suburb at night in search of the material, which has a ready market in the construction business.
“The poachers come here during the night and steal sand from unoccupied stands.
“The majority of land owners are based in South Africa,” Nomathemba Dlamini said.
“Last year we lost two children after they fell into one of such pits.”
Another resident, Vusumuzi Ndlovu said the city council must ensure that all stands were occupied to reduce land degradation caused by the sand poachers.
“All we are asking for is that the city council must take action and make sure that such pits are filled for the safety of our children,” Ndlovu said.
“If someone fails to develop the stand for more than five years then something has to be done.”
In February, a 15-year-old Pelandaba West boy drowned in an abandoned pit. The same hole claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl, who drowned in December 2020.
Ward 28 councillor Kidwell Mujuru confirmed the sand poaching activities in the suburb.
“It is very true that poachers have destroyed almost half of the Cowdray Park area,” Mujuru said.
“Some residents are responsible for what is happening.
“They usually sell pit sand when they are broke or in exchange of intoxicating substances for those who are consuming them.
“This has been happening for a long time with the aid of residents. River sand and pit sand are in demand.”
Sand poachers charge between US$80 and US100 for a truck load.
Mujuru added: “We are going to call a meeting with residents to come up with a long-term solution for this problem because it poses a threat.
“We will also create a neighbourhood watch group that will ensure that such things don’t happen.
“The city council has been trying to help through deployment of rangers, who patrol the area during the day.
“The challenge is that these people operate during the night and the ranges will no longer be there.”