Brighter days ahead

2017-12-19 06:00
Die Gaatjie residents watch on as their electricity is being switched on after years without electricity.

Die Gaatjie residents watch on as their electricity is being switched on after years without electricity.

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Christmas came early for the residents at Die Gaatjie informal settlement in Heathfield as they had their lights switched on last Tuesday.

Die Gaatjie, which is about 30 years old, is home to more than 300 people who have been without electricity for years. The electrification project started two years ago and took the contractor two months to complete the installation because the informal settlement is on Passenger Rail of South Africa (PRASA) land.

Ward councillor Kevin Southgate says there weremany processes the City of Cape Town had to go through before work could commence. “Since I initiated the project there was not a week that went by when I was not emailing, calling or speaking to someone about the project,” says Southgate.

A resident at Die Gaatjie, Elizabeth van der Muelen, says they got electricity just at the right time. “We will have electricity for Christmas. It still feels like a dream that we finally have electricity. I will now be able to make my toast and bake for my family at home. I love my toast but I had to do it at work since we didn’t have electricity.”

The project cost R 900 000 and 75 families recived electricity boxes.

The informal settlement had several fires (“Fire guts homes, hall”, People’s Post, 26 July 2016) and most of the residents had to rely on candles and gas.

“In some instances they were stealing electricity through illegal connections from council street light poles. It was through an illegal connection that a young lady was electrocuted about two years ago. It was this incident that motivated me to pursue the installation of electricity at the settlement. We also had two fires that destroyed several homes, leaving people destitute and having to rebuild their lives from the ashes,” says ­Southgate

The City has already provided sanitation, running water and refuse removal services to the ­settlement.

Southgate says he feels privileged to be in a position where he can help , bring hope and add value to the lives of people living at Die Gaatjie. “It brougt a great sense of satisfaction to see the relief and happiness on the faces of the residents as they responded with jubilation and appreciation when Councillor Eddie Andrews and I were hoisted in the cherry picker to officially switch on the electricity. I also echo the words of Andrews who said ‘Many of us can be guilty of taking electricity for granted, so to be a part of the ceremony and celebration was fulfilling for us as the City. Witnessing the reaction of residents first-hand was also highly motivating,” says Southgate

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