Zama Zamas - illegal gold miners
Across South Africa’s gold and platinum regions wildcat strikes throw the mining industry into turmoil as miners demand better wages, living and working conditions. 120km away, in Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, another breed of wildcat is carving out an existence. Known locally as zama zama – Zulu for ‘try your luck’- they occupy abandoned mine shafts, their numbers growing daily. Their working conditions: unstable mine shafts, their wages: gold, sold to: ‘the man near the traffic circle’ for R350 per gram. With officials turning a blind eye, foreigners from all over Africa travel south in search of a way to make money. The zama zama’s talk about turf wars and being robbed in the tunnels by armed gangs. Sometimes the gangs wait on the surface, the miners are easy to spot, they’re covered in yellow dust, their facial hair indicates how long they’ve been underground: the longer the beard the larger the amount of gold.