Sanjay Singh, the new president of WGA, speaks

Frieda Paton

Sanjay Singh was elected as the new President of the World Gold Panning Association during its recent Annual General Meeting in Slovakia.

“Honestly, I was very anxious about the responsibility of carrying the SA flag at the level of this position,” explained Singh, who is Director of Heritage and Museums with the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sports and Recreation (DCSR) and has been an avid gold panner for many years. “The support of the SA gold panning family, the community of Pilgrim’s Rest, the DCSR and the Mpumalanga Provincial Government gave me the courage to represent us with pride.”

Singh explained that during the build-up to the election it seemed as though he and his opponent, Mr Frenk Hink of Holland, were evenly poised.  The South Africans, however, discovered that there was considerable pre-election support for Singh from some of the biggest and most influential nations in the gold panning fraternity – including Finland and Italy. Face-to-face discussions with delegates from other countries before the election also helped a lot.

When the results were announced Singh had won with 29 of the possible 34 votes.  “It was very humbling to be elected by such an overwhelming majority,” he said.  “When the meeting was over and I walked out of the room it was such an emotional moment when the members of the SA delegation broke out in songs of praise and celebration.  I was filled with pride and joy to be a South African. Thank you to the special group of the gold panning family!”

Sherry Goodwin, Chairperson of the South African Gold Panning Association, emphasised that Singh’s election as president of the WGA was a great boost for gold panning in South Africa.  She further described that many of the gold panners from other countries had been surprised at the tremendous impact the successful election had on the South Africans and were impressed by their fantastic team spirit.

Singh believes that the legacy left by the outgoing WGA president, Mr Arturo Ramela from Italy, would be a hard act to follow. “Perhaps it’s opportune to thank Mr Ramela for his dedication, passion and commitment to the world gold panning family over the last three terms,” he said.

The actual work now lies ahead.  There are some projects which still need to be finalised – such as the revision of some of the rules as well as a guideline for the hosting of future world championships. During this year’s world championships the voices of the youth for greater inclusion in the decision-making processes came out loud and clear.  Singh sees this is one of the challenges which lie ahead. A move in this direction is necessary to attract more young people to the sport, allowing it to grow stronger and stronger.

Finally, his vision is also to expand the sport and heritage activity of gold panning to more countries.  From the perspective of a South African, he would particularly like to encourage other African countries to become involved.

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