Maverick Citizen

PHOTO ESSAY

Coal deliveries straight from the horse’s mouth

Coal deliveries straight from the horse’s mouth
The heads of Albert Monyooe (L) and Mabaso Khampane (R) as they make their way looking for customers to buy their coal. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

A building contractor from the Free State is plying his new trade – delivering coal by horse and cart – to residents in the informal settlements of Tjovitjo and Vlakfontein in Johannesburg’s south. A job creator, he employs two drivers.

Albert Monyooe was a building contractor plying his trade in the Free State. But as work became more difficult to get, he moved to Phumla Mqashi informal settlement, bordering Lenasia in Johannesburg south.

He needed to earn money and remembered an idea he saw in the Free State. Residents there got their wood and coal delivered to them by horse and cart, and he noticed that residents in his new home were in need of such a service. He dipped into his savings and was soon the proud owner of a horse and a cart. 

Driver Lefa Thabisi packs a few bags of coal ahead of a customer coming to collect it. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Monyooe says: “I came here two years ago. There was no work and I am not educated. I saw this business in the Free State and found it appealing. When I came here I saw the people struggling without any electricity. That is when I decided to open my business, delivering wood and coal.”

He paid R8,500 for the horse and R6,500 for the cart. He did some research and, with the guidance of a friend, started his business. 

First, he found a coal supplier from Nigel. The next step was to train his horse to pull a cart.

Mabaso Khampane (L) and Albert Monyooe (R) as they make their way looking for customers to buy their coal. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

“You have to train a horse,” Monyooe says. “You cannot just put a horse on a cart. It will create a huge mess. There is an art of pulling a cart and we teach them how to reverse also. Depending on the horse, it takes about two weeks to train.”

He now has six horses, two carts and two drivers. He alternates the horses, giving them proper time to rest. 

Albert Monyooe standing beside some of his horses before starting his working day. The ex building contractor saw a need for a delivery service after moving to Johannesburg from the Free State. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Each day starts at the crack of dawn, filling bags of coal. The filled bags are then loaded on to the carts and by 8am the drivers are on the road. One makes his way to Vlakfontein and the other to Tjovitjo, a small community close to Orange Farm. 

Mabaso Khampane (L) offloading a bag of coal from the cart while Albert Monyooe (R) watches on. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Each cart carries between 10 and 12 bags, and the drivers whistle as they make their way down the roads, alerting residents to their presence. They return at noon to have lunch and to give the horses a rest. The horses are given food and water, and at 2pm they start filling bags of coal again so that they are back on the road at 3pm, to return at sunset.

Mabaso Khampane packing bags with coal in preparation of the day ahead. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

A resident known only as Zanele says: “It is very convenient for us because they are delivering right to our doorstep. We do not have to walk to fetch the coal. We did not suffer this winter because the guys deliver right to our doorstep.”

Mabaso Khampane delivering a bag of coal to a customer while Albert Monyooe watches on from the cart. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Despite having a system that works like clockwork, Monyooe is still faced with many challenges. His biggest is crime. He is seen as a soft target and was recently the victim of an attempted robbery. While no money was taken, a worker and close friend were shot and killed. He lives in fear but has no other option but to continue.

Albert Monyooe (L) and Mabaso Khampane (R) standing beside some of the horses before starting their working day. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Another challenge he faces is that of the pandemic. When people lost their jobs because of the lockdown, his business suffered a financial setback, but Monyooe is hopeful that next year will be a better year. DM

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