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Self-made coals make life easy

 Homeless Talk (South Africa) 13 December 2019

A lack of electricity does not deter informal settlement residents to cook and boil water. Instead they rely on nature to make life a little bit easier. Jane Mathebula (52) from an informal settlement next to Nanciefield station is one such person. She collects clay soil under a nearby bridge and mixed it with water to make coal. (397 Words) - By Madoda Mkhobeni

Homeless talk_ self made coal

Jane Mathebula prepares coal from peat soil. Photo courtesy of Homeless Talk

She says: "I have been doing this job for the past five years. It makes things easier to get boiling water and to make my home warm on cold days. I cannot afford to buy paraffin and I don't want to depend on my husband's salary to keep us going".

Unlike some of her neighbours who use paraffin, Mathebula feels that it is cost effective to bake her own coal. "I prefer to use coal than paraffin because it is safer and I don't have to budget for it. The only thing I like is that whenever there is a need for warmth I don't have to think about borrowing money from people," says Mathebula.

Nozipho Mpande, who hails from Mlazi in Kwa Zulu Natal has learnt the skill from home. She says: "We grew up without electricity in our homeland and have got used to bake our own coal. It's simple and it does not cost much labour. I join other women who wake up in the morning and fill a 20 litre bucket with water and then fetch clay soil from a nearby river then we bake it. It takes only four hours to dry. When it is done we glow it on a brazier for cooking and when our children go to school they use it to prepare water for bathing".

But there are some women who feel that baking coal is an enormous task. "It is too much work and it waste a lot of time," says Kedibone Mohale, who prefers paraffin to coal. "I have once tried to bake coal but I ended up being fed up. It dirties my nails and it needs a work-suit, otherwise your clothes will be stained and it's not easy to remove them with soap". However, Mathebula does not care about the stains. "I don't mind to do the dirty job because I wear special clothes when I bake my coal. Anyway, it's what makes life easier for my family".


Originally published by Homeless Talk, South Africa ©

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