Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Power Cuts & 5 Kilometre Walks for Water - Life in Bushbuck Ridge

Zanele Ngwenyama

Last year I moved to my mother’s house in the rural areas of Bushbuck Ridge in Mpumalanga. I had just graduated with a National Diploma in Journalism and was leaving an internship at e-TV in Johannesburg. E-TV had offered to renew the contract but due to certain reasons I had to decline the offer – but that story is for another day. 

When I moved to Bushbuck Ridge I realised that it is quite normal for this part of South Africa to go without electricity for long periods without anyone raising the alarm. I have just gone through another 24 hours of going back to rural basics such as making fire outside in order for us to make meals. It’s been raining and as a result I can’t cook today. I often hear people from other families saying they sleep on empty stomachs when there is no power. Because we are not in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town or Pretoria – this story will not be making national headlines on any newspaper or broadcaster.

As it is normal for us to go without electricity for a minimum of 4-5 hours each time it rains, many have bought paraffin stoves but some have run out of the fuel as it’s been almost a full day of using them. Rain also creates other problems as no one has water in the yard here. We must push wheelbarrows for about 5 kilometres to fetch water from faraway taps. Those with money often pay people with cars to assist them with this. Today it is also impossible for people to fetch this important commodity as the rain has decided to continuously fall with no break. 

When I lived in Johannesburg I would go to Nando’s or some other fast food restaurant when there wasn’t power to cook. If it rained like today in Bushbuck Ridge then I would order in, but I can’t do that here as we don’t have a Nando’s. Not that I would want those urban ways, that lead to people looking the way they look there ending up spending thousands at the gym with no results, to come here. 

We have called Eskom about the problem, but no one is giving any answers. This is the same as when they never tell us about these constant power cuts and we never know when they would be scheduled for. There is no alternative for us. We can just hope that someone at the company’s offices in the area has realised how much in need we are and will try to solve the problem. I know in Johannesburg it would be a running story on radio and 24-hour news television already. I know I am only complaining about Bushbuck Ridge, but I think such problems occur all over rural South Africa.

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