If you haven’t yet, you ought to read Kimon de Greef’s reportage about illegal gold miners, or zama-zamas, in the current edition of The New Yorker. On the surface it is about the city of Welkom and its economic history since the decline of gold mining. But with a bit of imagination it is about so much more.

There is no shortage of drama in De Greef’s piece. One learns of zama-zamas descending hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet into the earth for months or years at a time. One learns of the heartless men who charge stupendous fees for access to the disused mine shafts and then make even more money providing food to the men underground...

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