This company is not one for large debt, but prefers lifting itself up by its own bootstraps.
With 397 employees and an expected turnover of R33-million by the end of this financial year to June, Sebenza has become one of the fastest-growing black-owned coal-mining companies in South Africa.
In March, Sebenza Mining Company was awarded an R180-million contract by Anker Coal, to manage and operate Anker's mine at Golfview, near Ermelo, Mpumalanga.
Then, last month, it achieved even greater success, when it won, in partnership with Archer Mining, a coal operation contract at Ellisras in the Northern Province.
The three-year Golfview contract, which kicked-off in April, is set to deliver more than 150 000 t of run-of-mine (rom) coal a month and two-million tons a year, while the new contract is scheduled for on-site operations from July.
Peter Davidson, together with co-founder and director Pius Mokgokong, are the dynamic duo behind Sebenza, Zulu for 'work'.
Sebenza of Tarlton, Gauteng, established in 1993, is owned by the Kolobe and Ngubeni family trusts of Mokgokong and Davidson.
The 95%-subsidiary Sebenza Coal has a 5% holding by the Women's Development Trust, chaired by South Africa's First Lady Zanele Mbeki.
Apart from the coal-mining industry, Sebenza is now also entering new territory - the lucrative mineral-sands business in partnership with giant Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) of Kwazulu-Natal.
It is in the process of obtaining 30% shareholding in Umzingwenya Mineral Sands, in which RBM will hold the remaining 70%.
Now about the two leading personalities...
Davidson's success in the business world can be traced back to his family's entrepreneurial and educational roots.
He was born in the coal-mining town of Vryheid in Northern Natal, on September 16, 1943, where his maternal grandfather owned a general trading store and his maternal grandmother earned her living hawking vegetables and fruit. His maternal grandfather was also a teacher of repute, even working for Swaziland's Queen Regent, before being recruited to teach at Vryheid by Davidson's paternal grandfather, then chairperson of the Vryheid school board.
Davidson's father was a lawyer's clerk and his mother ran a general trading store and restaurant.
Davidson got his first taste of business at the tender age of 11 when he and his brother went to market to bid for fresh produce.
He was educated at Vryheid Primary and matriculated from the Little Flower Catholic School in Ixopo.
Two of his contemporaries at Little Flower were none other than Cardinal Wilfred Napier and the present administrative head of the Kwazulu-Natal Health Department Ronald Green Thompson.
After matriculating, Davidson planned to attend the University of Cape Town, but apartheid prevented him from following his dream.
His family then moved to Swaziland, where a close family friend managed to have him enrolled into the esteemed Balham and Tooting College of Commerce in London.
Davidson completed his A-levels in a year and won a scholarship, funded by the Kennedy family, to Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, US.
He later transferred to Manhattan Business College, New York, where he graduated with a BA Econ degree.
It was in the Big Apple that Davidson met his first employer and present neighbour, the famous South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela.
The two friends shared a flat in New York and, when Masekela's music career started to take off, the artist moved to Los Angeles and formed a record company, called Chisa Incorporated, with Stewart Levin. A day before Davidson was to depart for London to enhance his education, Masekela persuaded him to stay on as road manager.
Davidson spent the next two years with Masekela, returned to Swaziland for a spell and then went back to the Big Apple, to work for Thomas Cook.
In 1969, Davidson finally returned to the country of his birth, where he was employed in his first South African job, as a share clerk at Consolidated Share Register, Johannesburg.
After a brief stint at Share Corporations, he started working as an account administrator at IBM from 1973 to 1977, before jetting off to New York again to try his hand at an African handicraft import-and-export business, which failed.
It was on his return to Johannesburg that Davidson started a booming business called Future Marketing, whose clients included Shell and Ford Davidson, however, itching for a new challenge, decided to sell his shares to his partner and move to Durban where he and some friends bought a 30-room hotel in Umlazi with the assistance of the then Bantu Investment Corporation.
He later sold the hotel and bought a BP filling station in Katlehong, Gauteng, with the help of Litet, Anglo American's small business arm.
In 1993, the year of the assassination of the leader of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani, Davidson sold the filling station after he himself was held up at gunpoint.
Litet gave him another opportunity to start Sukuma Industrial Services, a contracting company that provided labour hire to East Rand Gold Limited.
In the meantime, his wife, Jean Nhlapo, whom he married in 1979, received financing from the International Finance Corporation to buy and develop a rose farm in Tarlton.
Davidson was again looking for a new challenge, and it was around that time that the coal industry began to tweak his interest.
He founded Sebenza Mining in 1993 with partner Mokgokong.
Sebenza Mining, together with four other black development companies, completed a mining plan for AngloCoal's small Zondigsvlei reserve, near Ogies.
Sebenza won, but unfortunately it was not economically feasible to mine the reserve, much to the disappointment of Davidson and Mokgokong.
The pair received another blow, when in 1998, Sebenza came only third in the Newcoal bidding process, won by Eyesizwe.
As a result, Sebenza turned its attention to contract mining, winning an R8,7-million shaft-sinking and boxcut contract at the Matla Colliery, Blesboklaagte, in joint venture with Stocks Civil Engineering.
This was the beginning of Sebenza's contract-mining strategy, introduced primarily to generate a cash flow to keep it from bank debt when entering joint ventures.
In addition, Sebenza still has ambitious ownership aspirations, holding mining rights to Leeufontein Dump and Elandspruit, both in Mpumalanga.
Operations at Leeufontein and Elandspruit are expected to start in the next three years.
Although Sebenza Mining is fundamentally black-owned and managed, Davidson wants to transform it, going forward, into a sound non-racial business.
He advocates hard work and believes that discipline is the basis of all success.
A dedicated family man, Davidson has been married for 22 years and is the proud father of two sons – Ndumiso, 21, who is studying economics at the Howard University in Washington DC, and Vukile, 18, who is at Rhodes University in Grahams Town, studying BCom LLB.
Mokgokong, a qualified mining engineer, boasts a long and illustrious career in the coal-mining business.
As one of six children, he was born into a staunch Catholic family on October, 3, 1954, in Benoni on the East Rand.
Both his parents, Sosthenes and Mary Mokgokong, were science and mathematics teachers at St Joseph's College, Benoni.
The family stayed in Soweto until 1958, and then emigrated to Swaziland following the introduction of Bantu Education, where young Mokgokong started his schooling at Matshapa National School, later transferring to Salesian Boys, where he matriculated in 1972.
He enrolled as a BSc general student at the then University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland and two years later transferred to Botswana University.
In 1975, during his third year, he won a British Council scholarship, to complete his studies at the mining school of the University of College Cardiff, Wales, UK, which has since closed.
After his graduation in 1980, he worked for ten years for the Swaziland Department of Mines as a project geologist and later as a senior inspector of mines.
In 1982, he completed a three-month course at the Western Australian School of Mining in Kalgoorlie.
In 1985, he won yet another scholarship, this time to study mining engineering in the US, where he obtained his masters from the mining school of West Virginia University, in Morgantown.
In 1987, he was seconded to the Botswana Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs and in 1989 to the Witbank offices of the South African Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs.
It was during this time that he was exposed to the ins-and-outs of the business, having done inspections at mining operations throughout the Mpumalanga Province, and later turned his back on the public sector and started looking for a new challenge.
At the end of 1990, he joined the ranks of Ingwe, where he started out as a miner's assistant at Zululand Anthracite.
By the time he resigned six years later, he was mine manager in charge of the Kwasheleza shaft, running five production sections.
In 1995, he was seconded to the projects department at Ingwe's head offices, where he worked on several initiatives, the biggest being at Naudesbank, near Carolina.
Ingwe then sent him to Matla One, near Kriel, as production manager, where he remained for six months, before being lured away by a more lucrative offer as assistant consulting engineer in Eskom's Fuels Procurement Department.
But it seems impossible to keep Mokgokong away from the coal face.
A year later, he left Eskom, switching his attention to his new passion, Sebenza Mining.
Around that time, he also started his own mining consultancy, LPM, with Eskom as his anchor client for two years.
Even as a top-notch entrepreneur, he now doubles as mine manager at Golfview, with five production sections under his control, as part of Sebenza's contract with Anker, with which it also has the Shosholoza joint venture.
He describes his management style as firm, but fair and expects nothing but the best from his employees.
Mokgokong has a hands-on approach to business and always makes time to engage his workers personally.
He is positive about the future of Sebenza Coal, especially in view of its latest coal operation contract, in joint venture with Archer Mining and his vision for Sebenza is that, in ten years, it will be a strong and vibrant Southern African regional mining company.
Mokgokong has been married to Lindiwe Kunene for 20 years, and his three daughters, Sithabile, 21, Nomtuthuzelo, 16, and Marupeng,13, are the apples of his eye.