Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

28 February 2014

South Africa: Collecting Copper in the Klipspruit River - Different Zama Zamas, Different Risks

analysis

On Tuesday, reports emerged that the bodies of five more illegal miners had been discovered near a shaft in Roodepoort. This only a week after the rescue of over a dozen who had been trapped underground.

While not as dangerous but certainly still illegal, a different type of Zama Zama scours the banks of the Klipspruit River that cuts through southern Soweto. Every day groups of desperate women and men head off in search of small treasures that will bring in enough money for a day's food.

The high unemployment rate has inspired South Africans to find innovative ways of making ends meet. There are children to be fed, clothed, housed and educated, which is what drives the Zama Zamas, some of them women, who I have come across panning the Klipspruit River for odd pieces of copper to sell to local scrap yards.

Work here begins as early as 6am and usually a few of the diggers would have found enough to provide at least a meal at the end of the day.

The process of collecting, cleaning and selling the copper is certainly not easy. It is long and laborious, hard work that takes many...

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