Portia mines beyond patriarchal depths
She’s doing job some say isn’t suited for women
Portia Masango is one of only about 12 females working at Palesa Mine outside Bronkhorstspruit, north east of Gauteng.
The small coal mine, situated between the townships of KwaMhlanga and Ekangala, by the border of Gauteng and Mpumalanga, has more than 200 employees.
Masango, 29, a diesel clerk for a company contracted by the mine, never dreamt of pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry, where she’d wear overalls, hard hats and safety boots every single workday.
“When I was 16 I pictured myself working in an office or having my own events management company,” she says.
A diesel clerk ensures that all the machines such as the rigid and articulated dump trucks are ready for work and are adequately fueled and refueled if necessary.
She describes herself as a “very social person who enjoys spending time with my son, family and friends”.
After matriculating in 2006 at Mzimhlophe High School in Tweefontein, Mpumalanga, Masango went to study tourism at Rosebank College in Pretoria.
She pictured herself working in the hospitality industry dealing with tourists and doing a bit of travelling herself upon completing her studies. However, reality was harsh and different for Masango as an unemployed youth struggling to land a job.
The mine, just a stone’s throw from her home village, advertised several vacancies. Masango “took a chance”, submitted her CV and lady luck smiled upon her in November 2015.
“I was one just of the unemployed young people looking for any job when a friend told me about the advertised vacant posts here,” she says.
Masango was appointed as a water pump attendant and her world changed for the better.
“Honestly, I knew nothing about mining, I didn’t even know what opencast was or how deep the coal was. I think it was by luck that I got in,” she says.
However, Masango faces the constant pressures of having to double her efforts to prove
‘‘ I get to show that mining is also a career for women
her capabilities as a woman.
“What I don’t like about this field is that I get reminded that I am a woman, especially by those old-school men who still believe a woman’s place is the kitchen,” she says.
However, despite the attitude from some of her male colleagues, Masango has big dreams. “I’d like to see myself rising to even become the mine’s manager or even owning a stake in it,” she says confidently.
Masango feels like she’s representing her community by being employed at the mine.
“And being one of the few women working here makes it extra special as I get to show people that mining is also a career for women to pursue,” she says.
Portia Masango used to picture herself working in an office.