PICS: Mining gang digs for gold in the streets of Carletonville
By Alessandro Parodi
The township community of Xawela, in the outskirts of Carletonville, turned into a mining hub when residents discovered a high concentration of gold in the soil of the settlement.
“Back in the days, some smugglers used these grounds to hide their loot from the nearby mines”, said Virgilio (53) who moved to Xawela in his youth and now owns a workshop.
The discovery happened by accident: “We were digging a pit toilet, when we found a buried treasure,” explained community leader John D (42). “Even now, if you were to dig in the right places, you might find more nuggets underground.”
The streets of the township glitter with precious dust. The group of zama zamas (informal miners) developed a complicated system to extract the mineral, turning about 15 barrels of raw soil into a gram of pure gold.
The misfit community mostly houses Mozambican migrants, some of whom turned down a life of violent crime to become zama zamas.
“I ended up in jail for house robbery,” admitted Paulo [fantasy name]. “I killed a lot of people, I could have been sentenced for life. I decided to leave everything behind and I started working in the mines.”
Paulo, and many others, have tattoos which identify them as part of a widespread gang in Carletonville. Their brotherhood manages several illicit activities including the drug racket and articulated mining operations in the abandoned shafts of the region.
“We own a shaft not far from here,” indicated a kingpin of the gang.
“Every once in a while, a group of about 30 people shoots down and spends a month inside the mine.”
When they come back up, the whole township is abuzz: “Suddenly you see people partying and buying expensive alcohol. Then you know that the gold is out.”