NEWS
30/05/2018 06:03 BST | Updated 30/05/2018 06:04 BST

'Gold' Rush Hits Tiny KZN Village

"Gold diggers" from the rural village of KwaMachi in Harding, in the far south of KwaZulu-Natal, are spending nights and days at a local site where "gold" has been discovered.

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A lump of gold on a stone floor

"Gold diggers" from the rural village of KwaMachi in Harding, in the far south of KwaZulu-Natal, are spending nights and days at a local site where "gold" has been discovered.

Armed with axes, pickaxes and shovels, men and women with babies on their backs - from the village under the Umuziwabantu local municipality - have turned into gold traders, as businesspeople from outside the village come in their numbers to buy "gold" in the area.

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 of 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 him to secure the site.

She said it was not yet known whether the material on sale at the site was real gold or not.

"Locals are selling the rocks to outsiders now," said Nciki.

Samples of the stones have been taken to Pretoria for tests, she said.

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Nciki said they had a meeting on Monday with relevant stakeholders - including police, disaster management teams and her municipality - to discuss security measures at the site to prevent future disasters.

She said, after the meeting, they went to the site to tell the community to stay away from the site until results of the tests came back from Pretoria.

"We told them they'll be the first ones to benefit as the community if the stones found there prove to be real gold. We thought we got the message across when they dispersed from the site during the day.

"A councillor who stays near the site called me at night to inform me that the situation was worse at the site, as about 5 000 people were there digging at night," she said.

She said the site was not stable, as rocks fell when people climbed up to dig.

She said unconfirmed reports had suggested that some people had been injured at the site during a stampede on Tuesday.

"We sent our municipal traffic team there as from yesterday because there's even traffic congestion in the area.

"Outsiders are coming in droves to buy the gold from local traders," she said.

Nciki said fencing of the site had begun on Tuesday morning.

She said she was still waiting for a report on the progress of the fencing, when News24 contacted her.

"On top of fencing the site, we will try our best to also provide security personnel at the site to prevent people from trespassing," she said.

She said there was a need to secure the site to prevent people from getting injured while digging there.

"Even women carrying babies on their backs are going there to get the gold," said Nciki.

Traditional leader Mthetho Machi confirmed that a fence had been erected around the site on Tuesday to prevent people from going into the site at night.

Machi reiterated that there were no available labs in KwaZulu-Natal, which was why the samples were taken to Pretoria.

"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," said Machi.

He condemned those who came 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.

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Machi said, from Wednesday last week until Tuesday afternoon, the site had been abuzz with gold-diggers and buyers.

It was not immediately clear how much the locals were charging for the "gold".

A local woman, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the site had been fenced off.

"We have just trespassed into the site, so we can get ourselves some gold as well. There are a few people outside the site too who are scavenging for [what] little gold they could get from the stones that are on the road near the site," she said.

Police confirmed that two people had been injured when a rock fell on them.

"They were allegedly taken to hospital for medical attention. Nothing was reported to the police and no case has been opened at this stage," police said in an email.

News24