Secunda, the municipal seat of the Gert Sibanda District, Mpumalanga Province, lies in the Govan Mbeki municipality. The town is surrounded by coalfields and due to the increased conversion of coal to oil, has seen extensive growth in recent years. It is home to almost 40,000 people, with approximately 250,000 more living in the wider Govan Mbeki municipal area. For the first phase of the project, the research team will be working in Embalenhle (translated as beautiful flower), a township situated in the Greater Secunda Area with a population of 118,889.
Secunda is home to multiple oil and gas production industries, and a key operating hub for Sasol, South Africa’s largest energy producer that converts coal to oil, a major component of South Africa’s economy. The largest energy and chemical company in the Greater Secunda Area is SASOL. The first houses that were constructed in the township of Embalenhle were built by SASOL in 1970 as a dwelling place for black employees, now, this township is a home to many locals and migrants. SASOL has contributed significantly to the construction of houses in the community and it continues to fund various projects within Embalenhle and the Govan Mbeki Municipality.
The Govan Mbeki Municipal report indicates a high influx of migrants due to the petrochemical industry, which has negatively affected human settlement in the community as well as the municipal services. Issues experienced by the community include high levels of air pollution as well as unemployment and crime.
In November 2015, Govan Mbeki municipality was identified by the provincial government as severely drought affected and disaster management was requested from the national government. Secunda, thus serves as a community in which both oil and gas production and climate change are active stressors on young people’s lives.
Site Research Coordinator
Thandiwe is a young woman who was born and raised in Embalenhle, and learnt to be independent at a young age. As someone who is an introvert, being a Youth Advisor of the RYSE project has helped build her confidence and whe will like to see the same for other young women within her community, South Africa and the whole world. A medical doctor aspirant, who will like to see positive change within her community and be a role model for all young people growing up in challenging environments.
Thulani Ncongwane was born and raised in the community of Embalenhle. He noticed how the conditions with the community has limited the aspirations of young people and community members. As a member of RYSE Youth Advisory Panel and a youth advocate, he hopes to be a voice and a face of youth and community development. “ Don’t just focus on the picture, I look better in person “. As a Youth Advisor, he hopes to raise the awareness of the challenging environment they live in, being resilient and the power of the youth to make positive impact within the community.
Tiisetso is a socialite from Embalenhle who is moved by change and wants to see young people within his community and the world as a whole in a better state. As a youth advisor, he hopes that his work on this project will help young people “ryse” and become the best they can be.
Simphiwe is a young aspiring entrepreneur, born and raised in Embalenhle, Secunda. An extrovert, who loves to share ideas and his vast knowledge with people. A youth advisor of RYSE who will like to see a difference in his community.