By Mhlomuli Ncube
‘’Diamonds are for girls. Diamonds are all the glory. Diamonds glitter.’’ A lot has been said about this beautiful stone whose value has changed the fortunes of nations. The story of diamonds is one that has shaped economies and ignited and created animal creatures who though not even blessed with the rare gems control the levers of its trade.
But not much of this might make sense to the communities in Beitbridge’s River ranch area. The villagers who live around the now dysfunctional mine tell stories of sadness. At one time, they had a mine which employed many locals and gave life to places along the banks of the Limpopo. The story is anchored in disputes of control, liquidation and the search for an investor to revive River Ranch Diamond Mine. So far, there is silence and in that mode, the locals who live here have watched the mine continue decaying.
“There is sadness here. The locals around here even risk their lives walking across the Limpopo daily to go and work at the farms. Along the way some get robbed and others are even at risk of being swept away by the river when it starts flowing. As if that is not enough, crocodiles might also pounce upon some,’’ says an 80 year old Gogo Rendani Mbedzi.
River Ranch, a diamond rich mine in Beitbridge, sits quietly with no sign of life on the edges of Limpopo.
The mine itself stands as a former giant. As one approaches River Ranch, the mental picture is that indeed at one time, this was a giant. Its solitude, however, gives a loud cry for urgent attention. The story of the mine is that of good and bad times. Twice afflicted by liquidation processes, there is an air of sadness engulfing the diamond mine. The security staff manning the place against pilferage or vandalism of the plant and the perimeter fencing is the only visible figures. Even the guardroom has bird nests whose dry state could be the prologue to the state of affairs inside.
Inside the mine the grass is beginning to grow all over. While the plant still looks intact, there is a visible yearning for attention. Will this infrastructure be fully revived when a potential suitor is found to bring River Ranch back to life? Besides carrying the precious diamonds in its belly, there is nothing that really looks attractive about the mine whose Chief Security Officer Mr Richard Shoriwa has vivid memories of the story that brought the place this far. The no-nonsense security man who is not at liberty to say much looks after the place faithfully as if it is his own biological child.
Along the banks of the Limpopo, River Ranch had beautiful properties. But these visibly once mouth watering facilities where one could watch the river flow and the crocodiles swim are wasting away day by day. Save for the sound of music coming from the beer selling section of the bar, there is no life. A young man walks up and buys a cold one. He sits by the shade and starts telling his story. ‘’I live in Makakabule just a few kilometres from here. I wish the mine would open because then we would get jobs and it would also mean development for our place,’’ he says as if gazing into the far off horizon in search for answers.
Limpopo Mineral Resources was placed under liquidation on 18 July 2012 after the majority shareholder, on a voluntary basis, approached the court appealing for its winding up after it became apparent that it was no longer able to pay its liabilities which stood at over $21 million as at 7 March 2018.
In April 2018, Rani Investments, the majority shareholder in Limpopo Mining Resources (Pvt) Limited, the owners of River Ranch filed an application with the High Court seeking removal from liquidation. The company cited a change in circumstances that initially led to proposed dissolution of the firm. But there are still questions among the locals here that remain unanswered. Most of them are searching for the ‘’when’’ puzzle. It is built on hope that one day, the drills and hammers will make that noise signalling the coming back to life of the comatose mine.
To the locals living on the Southern borderline, there could be no good news bearing postcard than one that could come with the news that River Ranch is ready to open. And like an expectant lover waiting for that all important letter, the people here keep their eyes open in case the mail man drops that all important life-changing post card any day!