More than 1,000 fortune seekers on Monday flocked to the village of KwaHlathi in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province in search of what they thought to be diamonds following a discovery of unidentified stones in the region.
The people traveled from throughout South Africa to combine villagers who have been digging since Saturday, after a herd man who dug up the first rock on an open field, which some believe to be quartz crystals, set out the phrase.
“This means our own lives will change because nobody had a proper job, I really do odd jobs. When I returned home with them, (the family was) really overjoyed,” stated the 27-year-old dad of two.
Unemployed Skhumbuzo Mbhele agreed, adding:”I had not touched or seen a pearl in my life. It is my first time touching it ”
The mines department said on Monday it was sending a team comprising geological and mining experts to the site in order to gather samples and conduct an analysis.
A formal technical report will be issued in due course, the department said.
The lack of an analysis of the stones has not deterred the fortune seekers as long lines of parked cars on both sides of the gravel road could be seen just a few metres from the open field, where the young, old, female and male dug through the soil with picks, shovels and forks to find riches.
South Africa’s economy has long suffered from extremely high levels of unemployment, trapping millions in poverty and contributing to stark inequalities that persist nearly three decades after the end of apartheid in 1994. The coronavirus pandemic has made it worse.
Some people have started selling the stones, with the starting price ranging from 100 rand ($7.29) to 300 rand.
The provincial government has since requested all those involved to leave the site to allow authorities to conduct a proper inspection, amid fears the people digging at the site could potentially be spreading the coronavirus.