Locals search for what they believe to be diamonds after unidentified stones are found in the village of KwaHlathi near Ladysmith in KZN. (Photo: Félix Dlangamandla)
KwaHlathi residents of KwaZulu-Natal hope unidentified stones could change their future.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Unsuspecting observers watching the scene from afar – in the dark of night – would be forgiven for believing that the KwaHlathi scrubland in the Ladysmith region of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) had been subjected to an invasion of giant fireflies. .
Here, for a week now, informal prospectors have been digging with pickaxes and shovels from early morning until nightfall, headlamps securely attached, torches resting on the ground, many believing – others hoping – that the pretty stones from which they extract the hard earth are diamonds.
“I was here [last] Friday afternoon, I was busy with my brothers, working here, opening up this space. Saturday, before 10 a.m. [this pit] was very, very open. These brothers of mine were removing stones, rough stones from the black soil – you can see that there is black earth here, ”said Sam Chayambuka. DM168 this week, his feet in the pit, his khaki pants stained with dirt.
“On Saturday at four o’clock we started to receive small pieces of [stones] but not green, white, some of them they had cracks. If you place it in the sun, you can see cracks. I took them to Maritzburg and left them in Maritzburg. Now that I’m back I want to open a bigger hole, up to six meters deep, and maybe by Thursday or Friday I’ll have a few small ones [diamonds]. “
Chayambuka is one of more than 1,000 informal prospectors – men and women, young and old – who hope the unidentified stones will change his future. According to some reports, a shepherd made the first “discovery” on June 12.
But the reality is that the “diamond rush” is likely to end with the same disappointment as the 2018 “gold rush” on the province’s south coast. Geologists have stated that given the age of the land and the appearance of the stones, it was likely quartz crystals. In the unlikely event that some stones are diamonds, they will need to be mined and sold in accordance with strict South African diamond law.
None of this deterred the prospectors, who continue their excavations amid a heavy police presence, convinced that one real diamond “will make a difference”.
Some of the more diligent prospectors use a cell phone app to identify stones. The application results in DM168 saw all of the reflected quartz, although one woman said three of the stones she “scanned” had been identified as diamonds.
Mdu Maphumulo, an inhabitant of Ladysmith – his face mask pulled under his chin and a khaki hat shielding his head from the hot winter sun – raised a light stone for DM168 to inspect. “We are here looking for diamonds. It looks real, ”he said, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger.
“We’re still going to check [its authenticity] but for now we’re keeping it to ourselves because we think it’s our economy as black people. God has finally come and changed our lives forever now, ”he smiles, then shrugs, then beams.
“I don’t know how to put it, I’m so happy, happy, happy. I don’t know how to thank the Lord for what he has done for us as a community of KwaHlathi and Ladysmith, even in South Africa as a whole.
Maphumulo said his only “concern” was that prospectors would not adhere to coronavirus regulations. The provincial government has publicly stated that it shares this fear – which is not unfounded – given the erratic use of masks at the site.
The contagious hope of residents, mostly KwaHlathi, in search of life-changing gems is understandable, given the years they have had to live under dysfunctional rule in a poor, violent and underdeveloped region, and in a country with a rising unemployment rate. KwaHlathi falls under the ANC-led local municipality of Alfred Duma, born out of the 2016 merger of the local municipality of Indaka with its wealthier cousin, the local municipality of Emnambithi / Ladysmith.
In 2015/16, Indaka depended on the state for 90% of its R 103 million budget.
Ladysmith’s budget was six times larger, two-thirds generated by local tariffs and services.
Indaka was considered one of the poorest municipalities in the country and was deeply problematic, having been placed under administration in 2009/10, again in 2013/14 and once again in 2015/16.
Such interventions usually take place when the municipality has collapsed, is corrupt beyond hope and service delivery has stalled. Indaka’s lawless nature was brought to light in July 2015 when city manager Sinatra Khumalo was killed in an ambush.
And the proverbial apple did not fall far from the municipal tree.
In February 2019, Alfred Duma Municipality Executive Director for Technical and Infrastructure Services Department Oscar Hlatshwayo was also shot and killed in an ambush.
In March 2020, violent protests erupted in Ladysmith, the seat of the municipality. Protesters have reportedly called for the impeachment of Mayor Vincent Madlala over allegations of looting and his involvement in taxi violence.
Alfred Duma is plagued by water shortages and interruptions, as are the other two local municipalities under the uThukela District Municipality, currently under administration, along with Alfred Duma’s neighbor, Inkosi Local Municipality. Langalibalele.
Since the 2018/19 financial years, Alfred Duma has also been the subject of three major investigations by the direction of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) of KZN. One investigation investigates financial irregularities and maladministration, another investigates misappropriation of assets, while the third covers 62 cases of professional misconduct.
In October 2020, KZN Cogta told the National Standing Committee on Public Accounts that only one of the investigations had been completed. In March 2021, Cogta’s parliamentary committee questioned the provincial department on why the investigations had not been completed. The delay was blamed on the bureaucracy.
On June 15, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, led a fact-finding mission to KwaHlathi, accompanied by Madlala, mineral resources officials, a traditional chief and others. . The meeting must have been managed with “sensitivity” according to an official, as the desperation of work and stable income in the region is well known.
During the visit, an inspection of the site was carried out by the South African regulator of diamonds and precious metals, the Council for Geoscience and Mintek. Pillay said samples taken from the site will be analyzed and the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy will announce the results within a month. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Smart Pick n Pay shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-19 19:59:11