WATCH: Thousands rush to dig for diamonds in South Africa

The South African government has launched a formal investigation into claims made on social media of the existence of massive diamonds within easy reach near the town of Ladysmith, about 360 kilometers (224 miles) southeast of Johannesburg.

The country’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy ordered people on Tuesday to halt the search as thousands continue to travelled from across South Africa to join villagers who have been digging in the area since Saturday.

It noted it was sending a team comprising of geological and mining experts to the site to collect samples and conduct an analysis.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, where the alleged diamond field is located, took to Twitter to express its concern on the unprecedented “diamond rush”:

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala expressed concern about the crowd gathering in the area, saying illegal mining activities could violate covid-19 regulations.

“We are worried that if not brought under control, the situation could result in chaos and a possible stampede,” he said. 

In one of the now-viral videos, an unidentified man can be heard speaking in isiZulu and jokingly telling his partner, over the phone, to burn everything at home because he had won big. 

Ngiyakuthanda yazi baby, uBaba seke winile [I love you, baby. Daddy has won],” the man can be heard saying while the crowd in the background laughs. 

Lalela, siyodla eDubai manje [Listen, we’re going to eat in Dubai now].”

The race to find diamonds shows desperation among people struggling to find income in an economy severely hit by the pandemic. The unemployment rate in Africa’s most-industrialized nation rose to a record 32.6% in the first quarter.

Some people have started selling the stones, with the starting price ranging from 100 rand ($7.29) to 300 rand.

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