14 June 2012
It was an emotional moment for residents of a small Eastern Cape village as they got to enjoy the benefits of electricity for the first time on Tuesday.
Government officials and power utility Eskom switched on a new electricity substation at Godidi Village, outside Butterworth, signalling an end to an era of paraffin stoves and candlelight.
It also marked the switching on of lights in the four-millionth electrified home in South Africa since 1994.
‘Universal access by 2020’
And Eskom says it is not done yet. “Our goal is to achieve universal access by 2020, there should be no home in South Africa that does not have electricity,” CEO Brian Dames told BuaNews.
“Eskom is a state-owned company and we have a clear purpose and that is to provide electricity to the rest of South Africa so that our economy can thrive and to improve the quality of life for our people.”
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said that having four million households connected to the national grid was a milestone for a country that was celebrating 18 years of democracy.
He urged the new electricity recipients to conserve energy, reminding them that wasting energy would not only affect them but the entire country.
Watched by a crowd of about 500 villagers, Gigaba switched on the lights at the home of 36-year-old Nobuntu Nqonqoyi, mother to an eight month-old baby.
Local residents said the lack of electricity had long been an obstacle for education and economic opportunities, which had made for a ripe climate of poverty and unemployment. They hoped that the provision of electricity would improve their quality of life and bring about new economic opportunities.
‘Now we can watch TV’
“I can’t explain the joy I’m feeling,” Nqonqoyi said. “I’ve just had a baby, and you can imagine the struggle of not having electricity. Its winter and the baby requires a warm bath and a warm bottle all the time, so my life will be easy.”
She told Gigaba that even though she was still “scared” of electricity, her family was excited at the idea. “I am nervous because I’ve never been exposed to electricity before so I will have to get used to the idea, I’m excited though.”
For 72-year-old Nolusapho Jaji, having electricity meant owning a television set. “We used to have TV when I was staying in Mthatha, but when we came here it meant that we had to use a battery, and that did not work for long, so I’m excited beyond words.”
Shop owner Sgidi Mankazana said his business would soon be booming. “I can now keep my shop open until late, because without electricity I would close very early.”
Authorities say that, for the initial phase of the programme, 500 households have been electrified, but the substation has the capacity to accommodate 10 000 more customers.
“It’s an ongoing programme, it doesn’t stop here, our target is to have 894 new megawatts this year, and the number is expected to be doubled in the next financial year, so we are busy,” said Gigaba.