News / Africa

Remote South Africa Village Gets Electricity for First Time -- in 2014

Remote South Africa Village Gets Electricity for First Time -- in 2014i
X
April 07, 2014 4:21 AM
South Africa is the African continent's most advanced nation -- yet an estimated 3 million of its residents live without electricity. The government says it's working to improve its infrastructure to reach those people -- many of them in remote areas -- but it is simultaneously struggling to provide enough power for its growing urban population. In a remote South African village, electricity is available for the first time in 2014. Anita Powell reports.
Remote South Africa Village Gets Electricity for First Time -- in 2014
Anita Powell
South Africa is the African continent's most advanced nation -- yet an estimated 3 million of its residents live without electricity. The government says it's working to improve its infrastructure to reach those people -- many of them in remote areas -- but it is simultaneously struggling to provide enough power for its growing urban population. In a remote South African village - actually called "armpit" in the local language -  electricity is available for the first time in 2014.
 
Wilson Tshitande has lived in the remote village of Gwakwani for as long as he can remember. He boasts that he knows every stick, every rock and every plant in this settlement of less than 100 people.
 
But one thing the 70-year-old never thought he would see has finally come to this village in South Africa's largely rural Limpopo province: electricity.
 
In the local Venda language, the name "Gwakwani" literally means "armpit."  It's so named because it's wedged under the nearest river and other important landmarks.  But perhaps, residents say, the village's modesty has also led to their being overlooked in their request for electricity.
 
"We have been expecting that there would be electricity, but since we are poor we have nothing.  So we've just been hoping that someday something would happen," said Tshitande.
 
Despite the villagers' appeals to the municipality, the power lines stop at the next village over.
 
Local ward councilor Rabelani Gadabeni said the power utility and municipality don't have the budget to bring the lines to Gwakwani. Instead, electricity is coming through a private initiative led by the University of Johannesburg.
 
"We see that that thing, it will take time. So that if we even happen to engage with the University of Johannesburg so that if maybe they can do a solar project, it will help our people faster than when we have to budget for the main line," said Gadabeni.
 
A team from the university's electrical engineering department recently travelled 800 kilometers to the village to install solar panels donated by a local business.
 
Engineering lecturer M. Hove helped the university choose the village.
 
"There are a number of these communities that are needy. But we found this village as the most needy.  As I often say, I call it the 'forgotten village,'" said Hove.
 
The small amount of power generated by the solar panels will initially fuel a water pump that until now has run on diesel fuel.  Hove said that is just the start of the project -- the next phase will include more improvements.
 
Godfrey Nefuluphudwe has operated the aging pump for four years. He travels once a month to the nearest town to buy the diesel fuel.
 
He said he's grateful for the small amount of electricity, but he and his neighbors would like more.
 
"It's going to help us a lot. But we need you to come back and electrify all of our houses.  Because, without electricity, we live hard. Because we must move from that village to another village to charge even your phone or laptops. We must buy batteries for our radios," said Nefuluphudwe.
 
Gwakwani has always been a sleepy little village. But now that electricity is finally coming, maybe its residents -- young and old -- will get a better connection to the modern world.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs