Back in the late 1920s, while diamond fever was sweeping the northern reaches of the West Coast, a teacher called Pieter de Villiers was on another mission.
He was building a farm school near the mouth of the Buffels River at a place called Kleinzee (Little Sea). One day, quite by chance, he kicked a diamond out from the ground.
And so Kleinzee Mine was born, with one Jack Carstens as the pit manager. He tells of the nights when ‘the crooks’ would arrive at the diggings to steal the diamond gravel from under their noses.
His Namaqualander guards carried electric torches, their ’wizard devices’. The guards thought you could immobilise a man if you shone your torch on him.
He relates a conversation he once had with a guard called Jan, in A Fortune Through My Fingers. Jan tells Jack about some ‘crooks’ he had found in the Main Area:
“I torched them and they didn’t fall over so I went quite close to them and then they ran away and I couldn’t catch them.”
Other crooks who got away with Kleinzee diamonds had it easier. They didn’t have to endure any form of the rather quaint ‘Namaqua Torchlight’ torture.
In July of 1932, a consignment of 10 000 diamonds worth about 53 000 pounds was nicked from the Bitterfontein post office en route to Kimberley.
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