Thursday, 20 June 2019


A MASSIVE scramble for exhaust emission control devices (catalytic converters) found on ex-Japanese vehicles has gripped the country amid reports that motorists are losing the valuable components to corrupt mechanics who secretly remove them and rush to the market where each fetches between US$65 and US$75.

A catalytic converter reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants by catalysing a redox reaction (an oxidation and a reduction reaction).

It is usually used with internal combustion engines fuelled by either petrol or diesel — including lean-burn engines as well as paraffin heaters and stoves.

The device, which is rich in platinum, palladium, gold and other minerals, has a ready market in Zambia and South Africa where it fetches over US$100. 

Most motorists drive their cars unaware that the mechanichas since made a killing out of the device removed from their cars.

At times mechanics dupe their clients into believing that the removal of the device improves the efficiency of the engines.

However, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has warned motorists and other people against removing the devices from the exhausts, saying it was dangerous to the environment. 

EMA technician for Harare Metropolitan Province Mr Patrick Chipfunde said vehicles without proper emission control mechanisms contributed largely to air pollution and were a risk to the environment and human health. 

“The catalytic converter works by using a catalyst to create a chemical reaction in which gases are converted into less harmful gases.

“Vehicles without an emission control mechanism (catalytic converters) contribute to air pollution by producing nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.

“These pollutants contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The pollutants cause both short- and long-term effects on the environment.

“Vehicle emissions contribute significantly to global warming, acid rain and risk on human health,” he said.

Gas welders play an important role in the removal of the converters. A gas welding machine is used to cut the exhaust pipe to enable the removal of the device. 

After removing, a welding machine is again used to seal the cut. A mechanic at Gazaland in Highfield said a catalytic converter was fetching a fortune.

“At first we used to remove the converter just to improve the vehicle efficiency.

“However, as time went by, we realised that the converter was in demand in Zimbabwe and Zambia. There are some who deliberately remove that part and sell it.

“There is always a ready market in Harare. Most mechanics sell the device to buyers in Msasa,” he said.

“At times the part is removed without the knowledge of the vehicle owner. Most motorists without a mechanical mind do not know that converter can fetch that much.

“I am not sure what the buyers do with the converters, but they are always ready to part with US$75,” he said.

Another mechanic said some vehicle owners are not even aware that their converters have been removed. 

“My job is to repair exhaust pipes here. We use gas to do that and I am very familiar with these converters.

“Even if you want me to remove one from your car, I will do it. I also know a lot of buyers who buy these converters.

“I overheard some saying they sell the converters in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

“I am not sure how much they will fetch outside Zimbabwe, but locally the commodity is sold for US$75,” he said.

A Harare motorist, Mr Godfrey Shumba, said he was shocked to discover that the converter had been removed from his car.

“I usually take my car for service and the mechanic works on it in my absence. I learnt of the theft of converters when I took my car to a gas welder to have my leaking exhaust fixed.

“The welder asked me to sell him the converter for US$50, which I failed to understand.

“He lay under the vehicle and discovered that the part had already been secretly removed,” said Mr Shumba. Herald


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