Woman Produces Coal in her Backyard

Constant electric power cuts have become a norm for many of us, and currently referred to as load reduction by Eskom rather than the usual load shedding. However, for the people of kwaNomzamo Park in Orlando West living without any electricity in their homes and neighborhood is a new normal that has lasted over a year since June 2019.

One afternoon of 30 June 2020, passing by the area I saw a display of small black balls facing the sun and one woman working on a black paste and augmenting her creations.

I discovered that the lady, Bongiwe Hlongwane (knee jack) was manufacturing home-made coal and she explained that she was powering her coal stove to be able to cook for her family and keeping themselves warm this winter.  She also explained that her practice of the craft was necessitated by the reality of being without home electricity and very little money sustain her family. She’s currently unemployed, earning only her two minor children’s grant, and unsuccessful employment applications. A former Security Officer her efforts to finding employment have been unsuccessful.

According to Bongiwe, the homemade coal is made from a mixture of clay and coal dust, dumped from the old Orlando Electrical power generation station, which she collects from nearby spots and carry them home where she mixes the ingredients with water into productive efficient coal balls for use. The clay in the mixture is necessary to make the coal dust hold into a usable form, solidly taking a ball shape, that when fired up and produces the required heat for a burning stove.

She originally hails from Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape and when she settled in the then informal settlement of KwaNomzamo Park in the early 1990s, she learned the skill of manufacturing coal from the locals. With the lingering power cuts, she’s had to resume production.

Asked if she was also doing a business out of this she advised that thus far her hurdle was a lack of working equipment to carry the sands because they are apparently very heavy to carry and with an increased load and frequency for a  commercial enterprise it may probably prove too much for her body to bear. Currently she produces enough stock she uses lasting over two to three days.

Dumi Mkhabela Soweto Sunrise News

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