The Voodoo curse, blog 4

I was diagnosed with cerebral malaria, taken to the mine hospital and had injections of Chloroquine every few hours in my backside. The nurse who administered the dose would comment about how I had a woman’s bottom. The boredom made me go a bit bonkers, no books, no view, no visitors (Bill had taken leave). The only relief, apart from the periodic injections, was the daily blasting of the open pits. The ground beneath the hospital would shake, the air conditioner would cease its constant wheeze for a few seconds, and then there would be a rain of golf ball-sized rocks on the corrugated iron roof.

On release I was invited to the Mine Manager’s where I was entertained by his wife, a Northern Ireland protestant who very definitely kicked with her right boot. She had strident views on many things, including what should be done about the Galamsey (illegal miners). “We should shoot a few, send a strong message. I always hold that if we’d done more of that in Northern Ireland we wouldn’t have had so much trouble.”

Next day I went back to work, this time mapping in the surface mine rather than the underground. In one abandoned pit I discovered a snake’s head and chicken feathers covering the ore zone, relics of a voodoo ceremony conducted by a Galamsey witch doctor. Bill’s bewildered vicar’s voice entered my head and I began to laugh.

An explosion nearby made me move back to the pickup and drive quickly to the exit. To my right there were two massive earth-moving lorries (haulpaks) on fire surrounded by a group of dancing Galamsey. Mine workers walked up the road out of a pit where Galamsey were shaking machetes and shouting at the top of their voice. On the floor sat mine security, tied up and with their eyes gazing at the ground. I subsequently learned they’d been doused in paraffin.

The mine response was predictable. Next time the Galamsey entered an open pit en mass (after the ore zone had been blasted into easily portable chunks), they opened fire into the crowd. The bodies were left in the tropical heat for several days, until the families retrieved them.