Power, water a luxury for some

2013-05-02 00:00

IT’S 2013 and there are still people who live in the dark — even relatives of President Jacob Zuma.

Take Tshengisile Zuza (45), who Census 2011 says is from one of 4 200 households that still use wood to cook.

Zuza lives with her three children in Elandskop, a village just outside Pietermaritzburg.

She chops wood for a fire and uses candles to light up her two-room mud house. In her desperation, Zuza said she once called Zuma to come to her rescue. She said she used to live at Nkandla, Zuma’s home village, before she moved to Elandskop.

“I once had to call President Jacob Zuma and he told me that he was in China and he was going to keep in touch. I do have his numbers because my late husband was related to him. But you know how busy he is — he hasn’t got back to me.”

Municipal Census figures released this week also showed that 75 homes in Pietermaritzburg use animal dung for fire. And 10 977 households still utilise candles as their light source.

“Life is hard,” said Zuza, adding that they face arrest if they fetch wood from a nearby paper plant.

Zuza has a cellphone, but her neighbours have to charge it for her.

The same community still has no running water, depending on a water tanker that parks on the side of the road daily. But last week the tanker was broken. Residents have had to go back to fetching water from a stream. Census says 3 870 households use water tankers.

One energy source that is free and abundant is solar power. As a means of cooking though, its popularity has yet to take off in Pietermaritzburg, with only 348 households rigged up to cook with it.

An advocate of this environmentally friendly form of energy is Jane Harley, whose house runs entirely on solar power. “The main reason I switched to solar is because of the negative impact consuming energy has on the environment,” she said.

Harley, who lives off Ottos Bluff Road, owns a portable solar stove which she uses weekly to make her meals. “You do have to adapt to the change when using solar energy to cook,” she said. “It’s much slower, so you have to plan further ahead when making dinner. You can’t decide at three o’clock that you are going to start cooking. But it’s great for making beans, stew or pap.”

Harley’s stove is a simple design. “It is a box with material inside designed to catch the rays of the sun in a concentrated way. You place it out in the sun, with a black pot inside it, and the sun rays heat up the pot and cook the food inside.”

One of the drawbacks of the solar stove is that it can’t be used when it’s not sunny, and not all food can be made in it. “I wouldn’t bake scones in my solar stove, it won’t get hot enough. When I can’t use the solar stove, I cook on gas.”

Harley also falls under the 456 households who use solar power for lighting. “The panels on my roof harness the sun’s energy and charge batteries that are connected to a circuit that provides power to the house. It’s no different to normal electrical circuits.”

The bottom line is that Harley pays nothing for electricity. But she admitted that switching to solar is expensive.

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