KZN ‘gold’ surge: ‘I never went to school today, I  wanted to make fast money’

Residents of KwaMachi, a tiny village in Harding in the far south of KwaZulu-Natal, believe that the “gold” that has been discovered in their village will change their lives for the better.
They believe the “gold” will turn around their fortunes, especially due to the high level of unemployment in the village.
When News24 visited the site on Wednesday, where the “gold” was discovered, hundreds of men and women, old and young, including school children from the village and surrounding villages, were busy digging for the precious metal with axes, pickaxes, shovels and chisels.
Scores of bakkies, private cars and minibus taxis, transporting the “gold” diggers, were parked just above the site.
Some of them told News24 they had arrived at the site on Tuesday night and spent the night digging so that they could collect enough gold for the “foreigners” who usually arrived during the day to buy the stones.
Hamza Manuel, 25, of Harding, told News24 that he had come to the village with his friends to get the “gold”, so that they could make quick cash.
He said they had arrived in a car on Wednesday morning and had carried lunch with them, because they were going to the site to work.
“We found gold here in Harding. The evidence is right here. As you can see, these stones have got a little bit of gold in them. Some people are actually finding bigger pieces. This is just a small sample of what’s in there,” he says while pointing at the site.
“There’s actually gold here.”
Another “gold” digger, 23-year-old Zithobe Radebe from Umzimkhulu, which is about an hour and a half away from Harding, told News24 that he and his friends had hired a bakkie to get to the “village of gold”.
“I came here to dig gold here in KwaMachi. I used a pickaxe and a chisel to dig for it,” he said.
He told News24 that he would sell his almost fist-sized “gold” stone that he dug up on Wednesday for R300.
He said he would use the stones he dug up on the day to enrich himself since there were no employment opportunities in Harding.
Radebe said he was able to dig up “gold stones” that could fill up a 25 litre bucket.
Nolwazi Jali – a Grade 10 pupil at Albert Secondary School at the nearby KwaJali village – told News24 that she had skipped school to come and dig for the “gold”.
She said she had arrived at 10:00.
“I didn’t go to school today, because I wanted to come here and make quick cash,” she said.
She had sold R450 worth of the “gold” to a Pakistani businessman at the site.
A woman from the village, who spoke to News24 while digging at the site, said the “gold” would turn her family’s life around.
“I’ll be able to sell the gold and make money to buy food and clothes for my family,” she said.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said she believed the stones were real gold.
While News24 was still at the site, Harding police were busy erecting a barbed wire fence around the area.
“We will return at night. Let them close it now, we don’t care. This is our gold. Now government wants to take away what’s rightfully ours,” said a man who walked past the police while they were busy putting up the fence.
Umuziwabantu Mayor Dixie Nciki told News24 on Tuesday that about 5 000 people had gathered at the site on Monday night.
She said the gold frenzy began over the weekend when news of the discovery in KwaMachi spread to other areas in the province.
She said the site where the “gold” was discovered last Wednesday had been identified to be dug up for quarry stones that would be used to pave the gravel roads in the area.
“But construction workers did not get the usual black quarry that they are used to, instead they discovered a material that looked like gold. They then reported the matter to the area’s inkosi (Mthetho) Machi,” said Nciki.
Nciki said Machi then reported the unusual find to the Ingonyama Trust Board, which then instructed that the site be secured.
She said it had not been proven that the material on sale at the site was real gold, but samples of the stones had been taken to Pretoria for testing, as there were no available labs in the province where the tests could be conducted.
Machi told News24 on Tuesday that a fence had been erected around the site to prevent people from going into the area at night.
“Police have been deployed in the area, but they can’t deal with the high number of people who go to the site. Today there was a boy who was injured when a rock fell on him and he was rushed to hospital,” Machi said at the time.
He condemned those who had come to the area in droves to buy the “gold”.
“People from outside the area are coming in their cars in large numbers to buy the gold. That’s making the situation worse,” said Machi.
Machi said, from Wednesday last week until today (Wednesday), the site had been abuzz with gold diggers and buyers.

News Reporter

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