A new gold rush has begun...
...as thousands of South Africans have descended on the tiny village of KwaMachi in the far-south of KwaZulu-Natal hoping that the gold that has been discovered there will change their lives for the better
News24 reports that thousands 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.
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 (Zulu chief) Machi," said Nciki.
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 (around $25 - suggesting this is in fact 'fool's gold' or iron pyrite). He said he would use the stones he dug up on the day to live on since there were no employment opportunities in Harding.
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.
But of course, where there is entrepreneurial wealth being extracted (fool's gold or not), the government has stepped in to block the gold-diggers in an effort at pre-confiscation. As more and more gold-diggers poured into the area, Mayor Nciki 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.
The local Zulu chief 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.
But, as News24 reports, a man who walked past the police while they were busy putting up the fence, exclaimed...
"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,"