Herdsman who discovered ’shiny stones’ in KwaHlathi in hiding amid fears for his safety
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Durban - The man who first discovered the shiny stones that resemble diamonds in KwaHlathi, outside Ladysmith has gone into hiding.
Dwayne Maskutule, 41, a herdsman, kept what he found a secret until last month when he unwittingly told his friends about what he discovered while watching the cattle grazing last year.
Two weeks ago, during a wedding ceremony held in the village where the locals gathered, talk about what Maskutule found began to spread.
Now, everyone in the rural town, where nothing much happens, wants Maskutule to show them where the “diamonds” are, so they too can become rich.
Maskutule has since been relieved of his herdsman duties by his employer, as they both believed he was in danger.
“Many people have been coming here looking for him. I had to tell him to stop work because it interrupted his duties. I have to protect him,” said his employer.
Maskutule confided in his employer last year when he brought the stones home.
“I am surprised by what is going on now because when he first brought the stones we never thought it could turn into what it is now.
“I knew about the stones over a year ago and I discouraged him from bringing them here because I could see it was not diamonds,” Maskutule employer said.
“But another herdsman told people during the wedding that Maskutule found diamonds and that he was going to be a millionaire.
“Now people are coming to my house looking for him.
“They harass him while he is doing his job, forcing him to go to the mining site to show them where he found the diamonds.”
The Sunday Tribune did eventually find him
He was nervous at first and had to be reassured that it was okay to talk to us.
Maskutule, a Lesotho national, recalled that he was tending to the cattle when he found the white stone which he thought was a diamond.
He said the stone was on the surface of the grazing field.
“I never used a pick or any object but only my hand.
“I would have left my job if it was a real diamond.
“I was told that these were not diamonds but are just stones that can be used for landscaping,” said Maskutule.
He said due to the number of people currently mining the area for the stones, fewer were being found, hence people were coming after him.
“It has become difficult for them to find any and they want me to show them where they are.
“Some believe that I have kept diamonds in my employer’s house which I am going to sell for millions.
“I told them if that was the case I would have left my job and returned home,” said Maskutule while showing the white stone he kept in a plastic packet.
His employer said some of the locals were afraid of the impact the mining would have on the village.
“Even if they are diamonds, it is not the right way to go about mining for it. The way they have been mining has a negative environmental effect.
“The ground they are digging up is grazing land, but they have dug up big holes and left them open.
“Our livestock are going to fall into the holes and die. Besides that, there are lots of people from outside the village who are coming here and mining even at night. This could lead to crime increasing.”
This week, various authorities descended on the village, trying to dissuade the locals from mining activities.
Maskutule’s employer said the chief and the police had urged the community to stop but to no avail.
With unemployment and poverty being rife, locals believed it was a way to get rich quickly.
While most were confident that they struck it lucky by finding the “precious” stones, some found more realistic ways of making money.
The “diamond garden” which locals have named the site, was usually scenic, until people armed with shovels and picks made their way there.
Cars were now parked where cattle once used to roam freely.
Vuyiselo Gaven, 31, claimed to have made R1 500 on Wednesday from selling a few stones.
She said the stones have become scarce but she was happy with what she earned. “I am not working. I was very excited after a buyer paid me for my diamonds. I have been coming here every day searching for the stones,” she said.
Lethukuthula Sibisi, 37, said he made R2 000 over the week selling pieces of the stones.
Sibisi said he sold them according to sizes, between R200 and R400 to people who had come driving cars.
“It may not be a diamond but people loved these stones. I have managed to make some money and I have been here every day for the past two weeks.
“Today I came here at 6am and I am not sure when I am going to leave, I have collected a lot with different sizes,” he said.
But the stones were not the only things being sold there, fast food and alcohol stalls were also booming and people went around merrily supporting each other.
A team of experts from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy – including officials from the South African Diamonds and Precious Metals Regulator, the Council for Geoscience, and Mintek also inspected the site.