South Africa: Hundreds flock to village in ‘diamond rush’ after discovery of unidentified stones

The discovery of unidentified stones in a village in South Africa has prompted hundreds of fortune seekers to travel there in the hope that they will find diamonds.

More than 1,000 people have been digging near KwaHlathi outside Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal province since Saturday after a shepherd who dug up a stone spread the word.

The discovery was a life changer, said Mendo Sabelo, as he held a handful of tiny stones.

“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,” said the 27-year-old father-of-two – among the scores of diggers at the site.

Skhumbuzo Mbhele, who is unemployed, agreed. He added: “I hadn’t seen or touched a diamond in my life. It’s my first time.”

On Monday, the country’s department of mineral resources said it was sending a team of geological and mining experts to the site to collect samples and conduct an analysis.

A formal technical report will be issued in due course, it added.

However, the lack of an analysis of the stones has not deterred fortune seekers from flocking to the site.

Long lines of parked cars on both sides of a gravel road could be seen just a few metres from the open field, with people digging through the soil with picks, shovels and forks.

South Africa’s economy has long suffered from extremely high levels of unemployment and the coronavirus pandemic has made it worse.

Some people have started selling the stones, with the starting price ranging from 100 rand (£5) to 300 rand (£15).

The provincial government has since urged 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 COVID-19.

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