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Zimbabwe: Allegations of child labor practices emerge in Chiredzi’s sugarcane plantations

Author: Nyasha Chingono, The Guardian (UK), Published on: 19 November 2019

‘$1 a week: the bitter poverty of child sugarcane workers in Zimbabwe’ 19 November 2019

The blistering sun beats mercilessly on the Mukwasine sugar plantations near Chiredzi, in south-east Zimbabwe. It is Sunday morning and the soothing sound of hymns reverberate from a nearby church. For most of the children living near the estate, it is time for Sunday school and listening to Bible stories. But for Tapiwa Mumverenge*, nine, it is another day of toil. In tattered clothes and worn-out plastic shoes, Tapiwa emerges from lofty stacks of sugarcane. Despite his age, he has worked for the past six months at the plantation. He was just seven when he first had to find work, after both his parents died in 2017. Now Tapiwa works to feed himself and his elderly grandmother.

“I’ve never been to school. This is all I do,” he tells the Guardian in a shy voice. “I am helping my grandmother. If I don’t do it, we will die of hunger. My grandmother does not want me to go hungry, so she encourages me to work. It is tough, I get sick sometimes.” Tapiwa is joined in this “maricho” (menial work) by his grandmother. They both earn $2 (£1.5) every fortnight…Across the field, a group of children take turns to hold a fishing net in a pond, hoping to catch kapenta fish for dinner. They have all worked on the sugarcane farms. During school holidays the young labourers work in the cane fields for a meagre $10 per month. “If I need schools fees, I have to go for maricho,” says one. “Our parents cannot afford books and other things we need for school so we have to work hard.”

…According to a US Department of Labor report published in September 2018, children in Zimbabwe engage in the what they define as the “worst forms” of child labour, including mining and agriculture…“We hear this now and again. We always say people should give us evidence. People who come … for work always come with their children, which does not relate to the farmer. “It is strictly prohibited to use children under the age of 18 because our sugar will be called “blood sugar”. Since we sell our sugar around the world, it will not look good on us,” Veterai says.In May Zimbabwe ratified the protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, demonstrating its commitment to combating forced labour in all its forms

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