By Melissa Chekwa
Shielding her legs with a pair of cement bags from being cut by the sharp stones, a light coloured hat to protect herself from the sun, she is under a worn out plastic shed that has been there for quite some time.
She lifts a four-pound hammer in her gloved hands aiming to strike a baby-head-sized stubborn granite rock into small pieces.
Just like Thor from the Avengers, her hammer and suit make her a superwoman in the eyes of her children. She is the heroine who wields the hammer to protect, feed and clothe them. She wouldn’t allow her children to lack anything while she can still use her hands to provide for them.
Charity Nyoni (46), is one of the women in Cowdray Park who have not waited for someone to come and put food in their plates but would rather stand and make a business out of pounding quarry and selling it to people building houses.
Explaining how she started pounding rocks to make quarry, Nyoni said she could not entirely depend on her husband to put food on the table when the industrial environment was not making it possible for him to. Price increases and school fees increases also made it hard for one to just sit around.
“You might end up thinking that your husband doesn’t love you because of his dwindling financial support, not realising that the industrial environment is the one strangling your partner’s pocket.
“I couldn’t allow my children to face the harshness of rumbling stomaches and I saw an easy way of avoiding that. Wielding the hammer!” she said.
Nyoni, determined not to fail her children, endured all the pain grinding quarry brought to her.
“During the first days, I would sleep with my hand in a reflex angle because of the pain I felt. I would even have periodical chest pains (isihlabo/chibayo), but the following day I would wake up and be at my work station by 7am and leave at around 6pm,” said Nyoni.
The mother of two said she charges $30 per full wheelbarrow and customers usually come for a tonne of quarry which is 60 wheelbarrow loads. She spends two weeks harvesting rocks and the other two weeks crushing them.
“Customers are not a problem because people are still building their houses and they need the quarry that we sell because they are at an advantage of negotiating with us and the fact that our customers are mostly from Denver and Cowdray Park, transport costs are minimised,” said Nyoni.
She said through making quarry and selling it, she was able to pay her children’s school fees and for their transport to school, pay rent, and buy groceries, clothes and home essentials.
Nyoni said she and more of the people crushing rocks in the area usually gather it from earthmovers that are making roads in Denver and Cowdray Park.
The graders remove the granites and put them aside for disposal later on.
“Since they don’t use those rocks we just collect and stock the rocks for later use,” she said.
It does not only end there for Nyoni, knowing that it’s not always every time that she will get the rocks or secure a customer’s order on time, she runs a small tuck shop on the side to cater for the rainy day.
“I have a tuck-shop that I open in the evenings when I am at home. During the day it’s closed as my children will also be at school,” said Nyoni.
With the rainy season upon us, Nyoni was sad to say that the business was going to be affected because it would be hard to work in the rain.
Grateful for running different businesses, Nyoni said during the rainy season the tuck-shop was going to be her major financial pillar although it won’t be the same.
Nyoni is sometimes joined by her husband who comes to pound some of the rocks if he is not working at his regular job.
“All I can say is that this is doing well for me and my family. It would be nice if most women would get out of their comfort zones and do something like this. It can be a project that will benefit a lot of women,” Nyoni said.
As if realising the nature and extent of this project in her mind, Nyoni said it would be even much better if the Government would chip in and sponsor women in such projects by donating safety clothing, hammers and wheelbarrows for them.
Meanwhile, another woman who recently started pounding her quarry near Nyoni said since she started she had been able to fill a financial gap in her home.
As a single parent of one, Nomusa Ngwenya (38) can send her seven-year-old daughter to school with enough food in her lunch tin.
However, the business is not as lucrative for Ngwenya the way it is for other survivors who are doing the same thing. B-Metro