I walked around the abandoned sport stadium at Blyvooruitzicht mine. There was no one in sight. I stumbled upon an abandoned quarry and decided to go and walk around there for a while. As I walked around a big rock I saw about 8 guys busy with something. My heart started racing because I suspected that they were zama zama’s (illegal miners). For a moment I hesitated to approach them but I carried on walking.
When they saw me four of them ran away and the others just hid behind the piles of rock. I called the one guy and said that I would like to speak with him. He approached me and I explained to him that I am busy doing a project on land use in South Africa. He agreed to speak with me about their activities. The other guys came closer and also engaged in conversation. Two of them allowed me to photograph them while they were busy washing the stones and looking for gold.
I asked them why they engage in illegal gold mining activities and he responded as folllow:
“My man I am working with the illegal mining here. It is another part of job creation you see. All we are doing here is we just need some money my man. We are not working. The minings here at Blyvoor they are closed so we don’t have nothing to eat. We are just the people rolling around here just to get something to eat. We have the kids and the wife and the families and we just want to help them my man.”
I then asked him about the dangers of illegal mining. He responded:
“The dangers of it is like, sometimes we go under the ground so when we go under the ground and you find that that mine is no longer working and the stones inside they are no longer strong. So when they are no longer strong they fall on top of us and some us us die.”
While I was talking to them I saw another guy standing on top of one of the rock piles of the quarry looking at me. He left and later came back and there was another person with him. I felt very uncomfortable all of a sudden and decided that it is time that I should leave. I greeted the guys that spoke to me. They warned me that I should be careful when walking back because there are other zama zama groups in the area and they might shoot me because they will think that I am a cop if I wonder around there by myself.
My heart started racing because I did not really know where I was. I ran back to the village of Blyvooruitzicht where I met Sugar and Darks earlier that morning. I decided to go to Darks’ house because Sipho and Sean were in Carltonville with the van and I did not have anywhere else to go.
Darks told me that it was not wise to wonder around the area where I was by myself. He was concerned for my safety so he took me to Carltonville where I met up with Sipho and Sean.