Masakhane township, also in Mpumalanga province, sits dramatically at the base of mountains of coal mined nearby and then burned at the Duvha power station.
Residents say they're worried that if the coal-fired plant is closed they'll lose jobs, a serious concern in a country where the unemployment rate is above 30%.
The 3,600 megawatts Duvha power station supplies jobs ranging from contract work at the plant to related employment in the transport and food industries.
Selby Mahlalela, 38, moved to Masakhane in 2006 and has had various maintenance jobs as a contract worker for the state-owned power utility Eskom.
“It is the one place that the majority of people from here rely on for job opportunities, despite them not being permanent workers. This happens a lot especially when there are shutdowns or maintenance work,” said Mahlalela.
The transition remains a contentious issue, even within President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.
This week, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told lawmakers that the transition to cleaner energy should not happen at the cost of people’s livelihoods and the country’s energy security.
“I am one of the people who say we can have a transition. But that coal is not about just numbers, it is about human beings. It is (about) 10 towns in Mpumalanga,” said Mantashe.
In one of those towns, Silindile Kheswa has found work with short-term contracts at the Duvha power station and said he fears the transition away from coal.
“Some of our brothers are involved in the trucking of coal, transporting it to various power stations," said Kheswa. "So if you are saying no more coal, that means we can’t put food on the table.”
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