Single mother Lihle Magudulela spat out a mouthful of dirt as she sucked on a stone dug up from a hillside in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, convinced she might have found a diamond.
Thousands have flocked to the outskirts of KwaHlathi village, more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) southeast of Johannesburg, after a cattle herder last week unearthed a handful of unidentified crystal-like stones.
News of the finding spread fast, triggering a rush to the site despite messages of caution by the government warning the stones could be worthless.
At dawn, men and women upturned clumps of soil with shovels and picks and frantically rummaged through the earth with their bare hands.
Many found more of the mysterious stones and set them aside in small dirt-encrusted piles.
“They are real,” beamed Magudulela, in her 40s and struggling to feed her three children.
“I’m going to buy a car, a house, send my kids to private school,” she told AFP.
The prospect of finding a diamond sent glimmering ripples of hope to one of the poorest regions of South Africa as the coronavirus pandemic worsened decades of extremely high unemployment levels.
The country, internationally renowned for its mineral wealth, still holds a record for the world’s largest ever rough diamond discovery — the Cullinan — found in 1905 in the small mining town by the same name.—AFP