THE day they were able to light up their homes just at the flick of a switch was one two Nelson Mandela Bay women will never forget.
For Nontobeko Kume, 55, of Uitenhage’s KwaNobuhle township, and Phumza January, 47, of Zwide, getting electricity after living for years without it and water made them feel cared for by the democratically elected government.
They are among thousands who have been given access to electricity over the past 20 years.
The Bay municipality reports impressive figures of about 100% of households in formal residential areas – which include townships and the northern areas – that have access to electricity.
January, who moved into her shack in 1986 from Soweto-on-Sea, would wake up before 5am to prep the primus stove to heat water she got from across the road for her family before work and school – all by the light of a paraffin lamp.
“It was also quite expensive because you had to make sure you always had paraffin and methylated spirits, otherwise you go hungry. There was always a risk of a fire because some are careless with their candles and lights.”
Then she got a house with electricity – and “we started feeling like we were people who were being considered by those in high places after so many years of suffering”.
A high point in her life, she recalls, was when she got her “very own fridge” and “I had to pinch myself every time I opened it to get cold water or something to cook from the freezer”.
Kume, who got power installed in her shack nine years ago and an RDP house last year, also recalls a high point in getting electricity.
That was the first time she took a warm bath at home, when she was so emotional she cried out: “Thank God. I finally have a house and hot water.”
And Kume could not be more grateful, even though it took about 15 years before she was able to use an electric stove, iron and fridge.
She spends about R50 a month on electricity and receives a large free supply from the municipality as part of the city’s Attention to the Poor programme.
Ward 47 councillor Loyiso Stemele said electricity had restored residents’ dignity. – Rochelle de Kock and Zandile Mbabela