At the backyard of a giant meat wholesale company in Harare is thriving bush shrubbery that has at least survived being expended under urbanisation.
Infact the wholesale company, Koala Meats, has left the greater parts of its premises so natural, allowing the surrounding riverine and thicket to flourish. A seemingly healthy thicket that many a nature lover travelling along the Harare-Chitungwiza Highway cannot help but cast a lustful eye as the green matter bordering the company premises is juxtaposed with bare land exposing the ugly effects of urbanisation on nature.
But somehow this thicket is burning.
There, informal traders have constructed makeshift furnaces where clouds of slithering smoke are seen in the skies as cow hooves and heads are thrown into fire, pricked and cleaned before they are graded and put on vending stalls for sale.
The thicket is littered with cow hooves and dry bones pricked out of cow heads. The thicket has been turned into an economy of its own.
It is there where beef trotters, commonly referred to as “mazondo” in local lingo that have become a hit in the capital are prepared and sold in their readiness for cooking. It’s a much prized dish now found in most joints in the capital Harare.
While many find preparing this type of dish to be taxing, some in Harare have found a form of job, buying raw cow hooves from wholesale companies, preparing them, cutting them into pieces before putting them up for the market.
And Koala Meats have proven to be the giant supplier of raw cow hooves in Harare with informal traders who buy these hooves before perfecting them having set up their own market right within their suppliers’ vicinity.
Even management at Koala Meats must not have been perturbed by the continued littering of the otherwise beautiful backyard for its also brisk business for the company itself.
Thousands and thousands of beef trotters from the company find their way to the backyard on a daily basis where they are prepared and put on the market for resale.
“We place huge orders of cow hooves with the company such that these days one has to make a booking prior to collection. They are on high demand,” said Amos Mutero, one of the informal traders operating at Koala Meats backyard. Mutero said they work in groups to prepare the cow hooves which should go under four to five stages before they are deemed ready for re-sale.
“Some will be putting them into the fire while others wait to prick off the hooves, and yet others will put them in hot water and prune them clean while one has to cut them into pieces using a hacksaw,” said Mutero adding that they sell between 200 to 300 cow hoofs on a daily basis.
Another beef trotter trader, Edwin Gachi said Koala Meats management gave them the permission to operate within their premises.
“Our job is known by the management and this is why we’re operating within their premises. They have told us to just observe some basic hygiene and this why you see everyone working here is in overalls and gumboots,” he said
The price of prepared and ready for the pot cow hooves varies between $1, $2 or even $3 each depending with the size. Their customers no longer bother themselves visiting the company to buy their favourite dish in its rawness. From as early as 6am, women with empty buckets start milling around Koala Meats main gate along the Harare-Chitungwiza Highway.
Taxi drivers also strategically park their cars around the main gate of this meat wholesale company while waiting to pounce on clients coming out of the company.
“I operate a joint in the city centre and one of my clients’ favourite dishes is cow hooves. I make sure that I get here early in the morning and buy some cow hooves that are ready for the pot from these guys. They are very good and the hooves will be very clean,” says the woman who preferred to identify herself only as Mrs Mareke.
Another trader, Peter Mukaro said Koala Meats was being overwhelmed by the demand.
“Koala Meats are our biggest supplier but we at times are forced to source cow hooves outside because they are overwhelmed. This place is now well known to the extent that some people just bring their own hooves so that we prepare them for a fee,” he said.
Cow hooves are said to have a high degree of gelatinous gristle, that is, a jelly and rich substance that binds the sauce.