|November 2000 | Archive | Back to images of 'The Coal Kings'|
|reportage The Coal Kings|
Themba Hadebe was one of twelve young photographers selected to take part in the Joop Swart Masterclass 2000 organised by World Press Photo. In preparation for this, the participants were asked to produce a photo essay on the theme of Work.
Hadebe chose to photograph the daily work routine of the brothers, Nhlanhla Khoza (28) and Sipho Ngema (24), who run a successful coal delivery business in Soweto. They use a horse drawn cart and are the proud owners of a stallion called Zandile and a nine month old colt called Kanysile. The brothers start work early in the morning at 6.30 a.m. and go to collect the coal from a coal depot in Tladi, Soweto, about a kilometer from their own coal yard. There they buy six bags of 70 kilograms each for 22 Rand which they drive back to their depot and sort into 35 kilogram bags. These they deliver to their customers, charging 26 Rand.
The brothers do two shifts a day. The first ends at 11.00 a.m. when they take a break and allow the horse to graze and drink water. The second coal round starts at 3.00 p.m. and on this shift, the brothers are helped by 16 year old Thembinkosi Hlongwane. Thembinkosi is still studying at school but has been selling coal since he was seven. He also works with them at weekends and during school holidays. When he was younger, he did it just for fun but now he gets paid and he gives money to his unemployed parents.
Unemployment is very high in South Africa, running at 29%, and it is especially bad among young people. While high unemployment drives many in the townships to crime, these three young men manage to earn an honest living. The older of the two brothers, Nhlanhla, has had to battle with adversity in his business. He started it ten years ago when he was still at school and by the age of 20, he owned nine horses, but they all died from food poisoning. He was out of work for six months but didn't give up; he bought another horse and restarted his business, at the same time looking after his parents and his other brother and a sister. His younger brother Sipho tried to get a bursary to study engineering at university but was unsuccessful and so he joined the coal business.
South African photographer Themba Hadebe was born in 1969. He worked for the Mail & Guardian and The Star newspapers before joining The Associated Press as staff photographer in 2000. Hadebe's internatiol awards include a Pictures of the Year and a World Press Photo prize. He was nominated for the CNN 1999 African Journalist/Mohamed Amin Photographic Award and as African Photographer of the Year in 1998.
To contact Themba Hadebe by e-mail at email@example.com please click here.
To contact Themba Hadebe via AP call AP-editor Dennis Farrell at +27 (0) 11-726 7022.