At a South African village after a herder unearthed a mysterious gem, over 1,000 people armed with pickaxes swamped the area. Citizens flocked to KwaHlathi in the country's KwaZulu-Natal province in search for new stones touted to be diamonds.
Sucking on a stone dugged up from a hillside in the province, single mother Lihle Magudulela spat out dirt. She had a conviction she may have discovered a diamond. Thousands have swamped the outskirts of the village. It is located over 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Johannesburg. They followed suit the said cattle herder last week.
"I hadn't seen or touched a diamond in my life. It's my first time touching it here," Skhumbuzo Mbhele said in a report by CBS News.
Are They Diamonds?
Over the rural pocket of South Africa, diamond fever has prevailed. Treasure hunters are scrabbling through mud and rocks in a field. Appeals by the authorities for composure and for the throngs of people to disperse fell short.
The prospect of detecting a diamond sent glimmering ripples of hope to one of the poorest South African regions. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to aggravate decades of high unemployment rates.
Joining villagers who have been unearthing since Saturday, the citizens traveled from across South Africa. The unearthing was a life changer, according to one digger Mendo Sabelo, holding a handful of small stones.
According to the mines department on Monday, it was sending a group comprising of mining and geological experts to the site to collect samples and to initiate an evaluation. It added that a formal technical report will be issued at the appropriate time.
South Africa is widely known for its mineral wealth. It is the place that holds the global record for rough diamond discovery.
With shovels, picks, and forks, hoping to find unfounded riches, people have been persistently digging, reported Arirang.
They are not deterred by the fact the stones are not yet valued. Long lines of cars have piled onto the gravel road adjoining the open field. Some have begun selling the unidentified stones from 100 rand to 300 rand.
News of the initial finding became prevalent fast. This incited a rush to the site despite messages of caution by the government that the stones might be worthless. Several diggers discovered more of the mysterious stones. They set them aside in small dirt-encrusted piles.
According to digger Mendo Sabelo, a 27-year old father of two, "This means our lives will change because no one had a proper job, I do odd jobs. When I returned home with them, (the family was) really overjoyed," reported Geo News.
Due to health hazards posed by COVID-19, the provincial government has appealed to the people to leave the area. They also consider conducting proper evaluation of the stones to be initiated by mining experts.
Millions of South Africans are in poverty. Stark inequalities also persist almost three decades following the end of apartheid in 1994.