Photojournalist Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni recently exhibited a body of work on SA’s deplorable history of mining.

Otata bafel’ emigodhini in isiXhosa means Our fathers died in
the pits.

This body of work examines the brutal effects of coal mining on human life by questioning the legacy of an oppressed labour force on South African mines.

Raimundo Parafina Chauqe is a Mozambican national who worked in the Sasol coal mines for over 30 years. Raimundo was medically discharged from work and says thinking about the things he went through working in the coal mines makes him angry. Photo: Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni

The work is a deeply emotive look at the stories of 22 men who are part of a
lawsuit Makoti and Others v Sasol Mining (Pty) Ltd. These images are created to look deeply and meaningfully at the human faces behind the numbers of people whose lives are destroyed by mining.

The history of mining in South Africa is filled with stories of a labour force – shut out of the profits its creates – while it is solely responsible for churning out millions of rands while risking its lives.

Patricia Maloyi is the widow of Mandla Paulos Maloyi who died after a respiratory infectio caused by the many years of working underground in the coal mines. Photo: Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni

The images in this body of work look at how these 22 fathers, uncles and brothers, some of whom are now deceased, risked their lives: working for years in the coal mines, without adequate safety gear and then being tossed out without proper compensation after they fell ill because of the coal dust they accumulated while working in the mines.

Diphole Mmadi says he relys on these pills and asthma pumps to help him breathe. Diphole worked underground in the coal mines for over thirty years and suffers with coal dust lung disease because of it. Photo: Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni

The men, whose final words have all been “lebitla le nkemetse – the gravesite awaits me now” represent the millions of fathers who have had
violence inflicted on their bodies and have had their dignity
stripped from them by capital. This work reflects on how this
vilece creates a ripple effect which is felt by their families
and communities.

Patricia Maloyi is the widow of Mandla Paulos Maloyi who died after a respiratory infectio caused by the many years of working underground in the coal mines. Photo: Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni

Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni is a regular contributor to Mukurukuru Media and a 2018 recipient of the Tierney fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop.