Locals lose out as foreigners score

GIANT yellow loaders whine as they struggle to lift freshly cut blocks of black granite, their massive tyres sometimes rolling backwards as the vehicles grapple with the weighty stones.

GIANT yellow loaders whine as they struggle to lift freshly cut blocks of black granite, their massive tyres sometimes rolling backwards as the vehicles grapple with the weighty stones.

The stone, prized by European designers, is found in one of Zimbabwe's poorest districts, where residents look with envy at the granite that can fetch up to R4434 for a square metre slice.

Black granite was used to create the Heroes' Acre cemetery for the liberation war leaders in Harare, and is used for facades of downtown buildings in the capital.

But 95percent of the 150000 tons mined last year was sent overseas, making it a crucial foreign currency earner as designers snapped it up to make tables in posh hotels.

Meanwhile, in villages near the mine, families struggle to eke out an existence on small loamy plots, living in dilapidated houses and looking to the quarry for salvation.

"The community is impoverished, but I would not say one of the most impoverished," Dave van Breda, chief executive of Natural Stones Export Company, said.

"It's more well-off because of the quarrying industry, which has created employment," he said.

The Mutoko miners declined to divulge how much they earn. Local villagers believe the companies are making a fortune out of the quarry and want a bigger piece of the cake. - Sapa-AFP

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