Development and growth (Somkhele Community)


Establishment of the Somkhele anthracite mine followed extensive consultation and negotiation with the Mpukunyoni community. Right from the beginning, one of the key aims was to ensure local employment, community benefits and good communication. This has been a guiding principle for Tendele.

Its relationship with the community has not been without challenges and occasional tensions, but these are resolved through discussion and agreed complaint procedures.

And despite the challenges, the Tendele mine has remarkably strong ties with the communities surrounding it, and the villages of Machibini, Dubelenkunzi, Luhlanga and Esiyembeni.

Community projects, direct and indirect employment created by the mine, and associated social benefits, have transformed the Mpukunyoni area.


The mine helped people to relocate and replace traditional mud houses with bricks and mortar homes, with water, sewage and electricity, as well as community gardens and water tanks.

Some had homes built by the mine, while others built their own homes, and each family that moved was given the opportunity for one person to be employed on the mine. Tendele built the Siphelele Primary School in Luhlanga, and a soccer field. A large community hall was built in each area, for weddings, meetings, church services and community events. In Machibini, the hall has served as a voting station, and hosted Home Affairs registrations, school plays and fundraising events, and Easter and Christmas celebrations.


Cattle are of great importance to the Somkhele community. Tendele enabled community dip tanks to be built by local businesses, under guidance from the Department of Agriculture, and supplies them with water. Community roads and bridges have been built, using specifications from the Department of Transport. Access to water is a development challenge in the Somkhele area. Tendele has provided water to 16 water collection points in the Mpukunyoni area, and repaired six broken boreholes and fitted hand pumps. It has built new dams and upgraded old dams, some with adjacent vegetable gardens, using local business as suppliers.


Tendele integrates emerging businesses into its own supply chain as suppliers and contractors. In the last year alone, this resulted in an economic injection of more than R56 million into the Mpukunyoni area. The local business association and several small start-ups are among Tendele’s local suppliers.

Work Tendele has sourced from local businesses includes road construction, building a local primary school, sewage removal at the Tendele Edu-Centre, crèche maintenance, tent hire and grave relocation.

Tendele senior plant foreman
Tendele senior plant foreman
In 2005, Primrose Myeza took a job at a construction company as a clerk. She had wanted to be a nurse, but the new work was near her home in Machibini. It was the start of a ten-year journey that transformed Primrose into a senior foreman at the Somkhele anthracite mine.

The construction company was Leomat, responsible for earth-moving at the mine. Primrose was taken to Springlake Colliery in Dundee, where she learned about mining, processing and anthracite.

By 2007, she was back at Somkhele for the last phase of her training. “I was learning something new every day, racking up experience, looking for opportunities,” she remembers. She got to know the processes and machinery at the heart of the mine.

Her persistence and curiosity paid off, and she was the first to be selected for training in the control room. In 2011, another training opportunity took her to the Colliery Training College (CTC) in Witbank to complete a certificate in metallurgy and train as a supervisor.

“I learnt what it means to be responsible for the safety of the people in your team,” she says. “As a supervisor, you become a teacher to other people.”

In June 2015, Primrose’s hard work paid off and she was appointed as the senior foreman for Somkhele Plant 2, responsible for all shifts, with four supervisors reporting to her, and the whole plant under her command. In 2016, Primrose will enrol at the University of South Africa (Unisa) to study production management through one of Tendele’s in-house bursaries.

Development and growth


Thobile Mdlalda, a 22-year-old agricultural graduate from Empangeni, started at Somkhele as an intern in the community department. Passionate about the impact that the Agricultural Hub can make in the community, Thobile follows up with the hundreds of households that were trained in crop production. The team is negotiating with local grocers to supply crops, and Thobile keeps a close eye on what can be supplied, what crops are most successful in the area, and what the Agricultural Hub should grow to keep a steady supply when community gardens are under pressure from drought.

The training centre at Tendele mine runs classes for mine employees and community members, offering adult basic education and training (ABET) programs and skills analysis for employees hoping to improve their careers.


The training centre at Tendele mine runs classes for both mine employees and community members, offering adult basic education and training (ABET) programs and skills analysis for people hoping to improve their careers.

ABET focuses on numeracy and literature. Classes run from ABET level 1 to level 4, and exams are written through the Independent Examination Board (IEB).

With an ABET 4 qualification, learners can enter technical vocational education. Learners who complete ABET level 3 can progress to N1, N2 and N3 courses through the Umfolozi FET hosted at the Tendele Edu-Centre. Alternatively, they’re offered entrepreneurial training or funding for Code 14 driver training.

Student retention is high, and the training team proactively recruit unemployed youth from the Mpukunyoni area for education and training.

The centre started with a class of seven mine employees who had never been to school, and today teaches both employees and community members. Tendele employees have gone from being cleaners to samplers, security guards to plant operators, and some have been given bursaries by the mine to get drivers licences.

Today, more than 600 Tendele employees and community members have gone through Tendele’s ABET programme.


Somkhele mine has been creating jobs and opportunities for more than ten years. Today the mine offers more than 900 jobs, more than 80% of them for local people. When jobs are not available for all who seek them, Tendele helps to create other opportunities. It has helped people to develop a crèche and attend adult education, funded baking and driving training, and helped people to secure work in other parts of the local economy.

Ntombinkosi Biyase started her garden in March 2015 on a large piece of land, and has already sold up to R1000 of crops in a month. Her biggest seller is sweet potato, which she sells at R60 for a five litre bucket, and plants in stages so that there will always be stock. Her large vegetable patch has the potential to generate a steady income for her household, and she’s eager to attend the next Agricultural Hub training session to learn more about conserving water and planting different crops.
  Nyansile Chonco, the 27 year old teacher at the Khulugqame crèche in Esiyembeni, remembers the old building. “It was horrible,” she says. “There was no floor, just sand. We didn’t have doors, and the roof was loose in so many places that the noise from the wind made it impossible to teach.”


The Department of Mineral Resources requires mines to conduct baseline needs analyses before establishing community projects, to ensure that they are appropriate and the community is engaged from the beginning.

In 2012, Tendele employed local youth to help conduct a community needs survey. It was informed by the Mtubatuba municipality’s challenges and aligned to its development goals.

Tendele’s local economic development projects, as well as infrastructure and poverty alleviation initiatives, were then designed to meet these needs. Among them were:

Water challenges
Unemployed youth and women
A low level of education
Lack of skills development
Underdeveloped SMME economy


Phumezitheni Ngubane, an Mpukunyoni local, came to the Somkhele mine in 2014 aged 37 and hoping for work. He had only a few years of primary school education. When work on the mine was not available, he enrolled to study at Tendele’s ABET training centre. By 2015, he’d completed ABET level 3, and is currently doing a carpentry training course. “Even if I don’t get work on the mine, I’ll keep studying. It’s my key to the world, and it’s how I’ll feed my children,” he says. “I would not have had these opportunities in Gauteng. The mine has unlocked the world for me."

The Tendele Edu-Centre was set up in 2013 by Tendele, the traditional council and the municipality. The Centre was refurbished and fitted with computers and an internet connection, which is free to use. Telecoms company MTN donated an additional 20 computers.

The Edu-Centre offers maths, science and English to local students through a self-guided computer learning programme. Four local schools adopted by Tendele use the centre for extra classes, and mine employees and community members use the computer centre to study through institutions like Unisa.

The Tendele maths and science programme has teachers and ambassadors from nine schools come through the centre on rotation to improve maths, chemistry, physics and biology skills.

The Edu-Centre also offers ABET courses to students from as far away as St Lucia on the KZN coast.

Between January and June 2015, more than 200 people used the computer centres alone, and 310 students are registered in the Tendele Maths and Science programme.

The Umfolozi FET College offers N-courses through the Tendele Edu-Centre to matric students with maths and science, or ABET level 3 graduates. Two full time lecturers are based at the centre, and currently teach 74 mechanical engineering students. Ten of Tendele’s ABET students have progressed to this level, and more than 200 students have taken the Umfolozi N-courses in total. Many more want to enrol. The National Skills Fund supports most of the students, and ten successful N3 graduates have been given three-year apprenticeships through a collaboration between the mine and Umfolozi College.

Up to five students a year qualify for these apprenticeships at the mine, with Tendele funding their transport to Umfolozi, and the college providing monthly allowances.


Tendele is addressing local education gaps not just for adults but also for the youngest community members. Its crèche development programme at the Tendele Edu-Centre evaluates teachers and their crèches, and provides training where necessary. In 2014, working with the traditional council, it identified seven local crèches in need of support and refurbishments. Buildings were repaired, jungle gyms installed and educational toys and books donated. In the future, teachers at each crèche will receive training through the Tendele Edu-Centre.


The Siphelele Primary School in Luhlanga was built by Tendele, and opened its doors to more than 180 community children in August 2015.

“We are incredibly grateful,” says Principal Penny Nxumalo, a passionate maths and technology teacher. “It was a challenge getting here. When the school wasn’t ready, the mine supplied us with eight container classrooms and a kitchen so that we could still teach. Now we are in full swing, and the community is very proud of its school.”

Tendele also supports several local schools by supplying teachers and access to the Edu-Centre. These trained teachers assist with maths, science and English classes, as well as extra-curricular programmes. Teach SA, a local NGO, partners with Tendele and identifies young university graduates in science who want to contribute to society through teaching, and after training they place them in schools that need them most.

The school has had innovative education programmes, including a spelling competition, storytelling day, a debate about xenophobia and drama productions. A large playground was also built on site by the mine, and friendly netball and soccer matches have already been hosted.

The school employs six teachers, and up to 400 children can be accommodated, leaving room for growth.



The Agricultural Hub is being integrated into the community and providing programmes including enterprise and skills development. It will serve as a business hub where small local businesses can sell products, and a manufacturing centre with space to work on traditional beadwork, mats, pottery, and Nguni hides.

Mildred Smangalisile
Mildred Smangalisile Mkwanaze is a fifty year old farmer in Mpukunyoni who received her training from the Tendele Agricultural Hub. She diligently prepares her trenches every year, adding bones, grass, tins and cow dung to improve the soil. She was one of the first to be trained by the hub, and is one of the most successful. “Even when everyone’s gardens died because of water shortages, mine kept producing vegetables,” she says. Mkwanaze owns a large piece of land and her bountiful garden already supplies nearly 50 people with carrots, spinach, onions and beans.

It will provide communities with outlets for their crops and serve as a centre for community events. The aim is for the Agricultural Hub to become part of a tourist route that links St Lucia and the Hluhluwe and Imfolozi game reserves. Crop-training programmes linked to the Edu-Centre have already begun, and households are being trained to harvest rainwater and enhance their own crop production.

Tendele has trained more than 600 households in organic crop-farming, with methods specific to the water-scarce area. Each household feeds about 10 people, and having vegetable gardens takes a financial burden off the families. Small scale farmers linked with the Agricultural Hub will have their produce picked up by Tendele and sold either in the Hub itself or to local grocers, a relationship which Tendele facilitates.

The Agricultural Hub itself is installing trenches and tunnels to grow its own crops, with water supplied by a system that collects and conserves water in underground tanks, and distributes it by a hand pump. Also planned for the Agricultural Hub are an admin block, in-house market, kiosk and conference room.


The Somkhele clinic, the first medical port of call for mine employees and surrounding villages, asked Tendele to build a maternity ward for local women. Tendele agreed to construct a ward and the Department of Health will equip it with technology and personnel.


Tendele projects include many sports initiatives. It upgraded community sports fields in Machibini, Dubelenkunzi and KwaMyeki, levelling the fields and putting up goal posts. The fields, which can also be used for netball, have enabled volunteers to establish a local league. Tendele donated eight soccer kits, and the area has been accepted as a feeder for bigger leagues.

“We’re now part of the local football association (LFA),” says Temba Masango, a 32-year-old police officer from the area who runs the league in his spare time. Masango has since founded the Future Stars Academy to train talented players. Tendele recently paid for transport and accommodation for him and two local players to travel to Bloemfontein for trials. The Future Stars Academy has 105 kids in training with volunteer coaches.


Eight local football teams now have kits in which to compete in the newly created local tournament. Coaches Sihle Nkwanyana and Khulekani Mbanjwa donate their time. Several players have gone to league events, where they impressed trainers, motivating them to work towards a possible sporting career.



Twenty taxis owned by local entrepreneurs have a contract to transport Somkhele mine employees to and from work. Taxi owners and mine management formed the Tendele taxi committee, to handle challenges or disputes.

Small opportunities like these lead to bigger things, explains Mandla Zulu, taxi owner and deputy chairperson of the committee. “The opportunity given to me by Tendele is helping me save up for my own dream – to own a plant hire company. The experience we’re building up qualifies us for future loans, and gives us a credible business history.”

“We’re the first taxi industry to work with the mine. Losing the mine would be a massive loss for the community, so this is an important relationship.”






Melusi Siyaya began his career as a contract supervisor for his brother’s construction company in Nquthu, more than three hours from his home in Somkhele. In 2011, Siyaya came home when he heard about new opportunities in Mpukunyoni as a result of the Somkhele mine. In 2012 he got a job with mining contractor Sandton Plant Hire as a Code 14 driver. Then he started his own business, bought three second hand trucks, and won a tender to move earth for Tendele. Today he keeps winning work on the mine, is expanding his fleet, and also has vehicles working on government projects.









In 2006, a group of business owners in the Mpukunyoni area approached the traditional council with an idea to share work opportunities and benefit local entrepreneurs. The Mpukunyoni Business Association was formed to link small businesses to the Tendele mine, and local opportunities were created, ranging from civil engineering and construction to security, plant hire, tourism, skills training and IT.

More than fifty companies are currently registered with the MBA. Its chairman, Eric Sokhulu, says roughly 120 people are working in and around the mine through the association.

Transport for the mine is the most popular work. MBA businesses are currently responsible for loading and hauling anthracite between Tendele and the Richards Bay port.

“What we’d like to do next is to incubate small businesses, share knowledge and help them grow,” says Sokhulu. The MBA is also involved in local sports sponsorships, gives donations to schools and advises young entrepreneurs.