Friday, August 3, 2007

1984 Apartheid, Kleinzee Diamond Mining

< 1984. Namaqualand daisies near Kleinzee.

Most Namaqualand white and coloured Boers were poor. De Beers, other diamond mines and copper mines enriched some locals. Some coloureds lived in matjieshutte, or in small stone dwellings. Reticulated water and electricity was rare. Toilets were sometimes long-drops. Gutter pipes caught condensed fog water, and modern Namaqualand houses, including Kleinzee mine houses, had water-tanks alongside. Brak water from the Orange and Buffels rivers was briny - only good for washing, although soap scummed in hard water. We fetched jugs of fog water from our tank whenever we cooked or brewed tea. Water had to be boiled before cooking. I fetched water purifying tablets from the friendly personnel receptionist, then sprinkled powder in our water-tank.

Fortuin, Goosen, Mostert were Namaqualand surnames, and many Goosens and Mosterts had red hair. In olden days when sandveld was isolated, Namaqualanders inbred, married cousins, producing mamparas. Trekboers and criminals, fleeing from British rule in the Cape Colony, took Bushmen, hottentot and runaway slave lovers, producing Basters. Outcast Baster areas where coloureds lived, separately, were Richtersveld, Kommagas, Concordia, Steinkopf near Aninaus Pass. Coloureds worked on mines, or herded sheep and donkeys in the gammadullas. Some didn't like city ways, and lived unemployed in Namaqualand. IDB?

Millions of years ago, from inland Kimberlite pipes, the Gariep - Orange River, which changed its course, and other rivers carried diamonds to the sea. Diamonds became trapped in seabed crevices. The coast raised, becoming sandveld. South of Kleinzee, stone-heaps reminded us of manual alluvial-diggings. After surface-diamonds were dug out, a modern mine developed north of the Buffels, stretching inland from the coast to Port Nolloth dirt-road.

A seal colony, ostriches, blacksmith plovers, brown hyenas and jackals guarded the mine. Alluvial, diamond-bearing conglomerate lay above bedrock. In hand-digging times, huge trenches were dug. Duiwelsteen, our conservation-minded geologist, supervised digging of overburden sand with mechanical auger-drills, down to bedrock, lying 1-30 metres below. Prospecting pits were refilled after inspection. Modern mining involved giant drag-lines, bowl-scrapers and bulldozers removing overburden sand.

Xhosa mine-workers toiled in sandveld sun. Xhosa jackhammer-men and bedrock-sweepers removed diamond-bearing conglomerate. Sweepers finding dirty diamonds in bedrock cracks were paid a bedrock-sweeper's allowance to keep them honest. Xhosa men from puppet Transkei's Sterkspruit region, and labouring coloureds were lowest on the Paterson wage scale. Short-contract Xhosa migrant -workers existed in Dreyerspan hostel, in the mine area, apart from Kleinzee, and were repatriated to Transkei to visit outcast family and farm. There was little work in Transkei, so they bussed back to Kleinzee and signed new contracts. Some Xhosa men worked at Kleinzee for thirty or more years. Due to episodic-contracts and homeland stays, their pensions amounted to 15-20 years' service. Coloureds and whites, living permanently in Kleinzee, got better pensions.

Terex trucks hauled conglomerate to a metallurgy plant, which crushed and processed rocks. Diamond final-recovery was by conveyor, where X-ray machines fluoresced diamonds, triggering air-puffs, blowing rough diamonds onto another conveyor. Rough diamonds were transported to Harry Oppenheimer House, Kimberley, for sorting then transport to Central Selling Organization (CSO) London, which monopolized the diamond market, keeping diamond prices high and stable by stockpiling diamonds, and selling diamonds to selected buyers for cutting, polishing and re-selling.

Whenever we drove south, a tailings-dump loomed over sandveld, long before we reached Koingnaas. Would De Beers ever flatten dumps and refill trenches? Would they forever blot sandveld?

White, black and coloured recreation clubs were separate social galaxies. In the white rec club, there was a men's bar and Desert Rose ladies' bar. A restaurant served steaks and Cape wines. White schools and amenities were five minutes walk from home. A heated swimming pool, squash court, and tennis courts adjoined the white rec club. Our white school at the back of the club used club facilities.

Camera, drama, aerobics, pottery, yoga clubs were popular. Pom General Manager's wife, Indian yoga trained, directed drama shows. Leah attended her yoga, and I acted in her variety shows, raising funds for back-stage change-rooms. A club could be started by any group, and club constitutions were vetted by rec club management. Clubhouses, affiliated to the rec club, were sprinkled around Kleinzee. On Sundays, happy-clappy interdenominational white church services were held by a resident minister in our school hall. We didn't attend. I didn't know how blacks and coloureds socialized at Kleinzee, as it would've been a skande if whiteys socialized with them.

Ferreira, former South West African hockey player, encouraged me to play hockey with De Beers pilot Swael and others. Swael had been a Rhodesian Bush War pilot, cheating death by out-flying terr SAM missiles. After leaving Rhodesia, Swael had flown in Botswana before joining De Beers. Some coloureds joined our hockey club, and we played hockey in Kleinzee, Cape Town and Oranjemund. Whenever we passed an Alexander Baai road, named Hottie Close, scurrilous Ferreira called his coloured players, "Hotties."

December 1984: Leah and I backspoored to Durban, for our end-of -year champagne-razzle with Leah's parents. Our bakkie was repaired, good as new. I registered at UNISA to read correspondence Industrial Psychology, third major to my BA degree. I'd find UNISA psycho theories, statistics, Yank ergonomics and Yank organization psycho irrelevant to the manpower, manning, industrial-relations, community services and training I did for De Beers.

Fraser was retrenched by Standard Bank after a decade's service, accused of stealing from the Main Branch strong-room, where he'd worked with a coolie. Fraser denied the allegation saying, "The coolie was the thief. He's pulling me down to his level!" White Fraser was replaced by an ATM, black being the in-colour in the ungovernable 80s. His name cleared, Fraser did temp work at Standard Bank, Briardene, but the mental damage was done to Fraser, living on his own and boozing.

Note: Ferreira is a composite character.

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