It was an emotional time at Die Gaatjie, Smutsville earlier today (22 September), when some households got to experience electricity for the first time. Resident John Hardnick was brought to tears as he flicked the switch on and his small home was bathed in light, with Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies and Ward 1 Councillor Levael Davis applauding excitedly as they recognised his joy.
The Knysna Municipality and the Department of Energy have provided this spark of hope, and indeed dignity, to 120 families living in Sedgefield’s poorest suburb.
These residents have lived without electricity for many years and joined in the official switch-on with great excitement and enthusiasm.
The Knysna Municipality’s Integrated Human Settlements Department applied to the national Department of Energy for electrification of Die Gaatjie. The Department approved the application and agreed to providing electricity to these families at a cost of R900 000.
The Municipality has faced several challenges regarding the formalising of this area as it is established on an old dump site, which meant it failed to meet the requirements of the Environmental Planning Department. Despite this the area has been provided with basic services such as taps and temporary toilets.
Knysna Executive Mayor Councillor Eleanore Bouw-Spies was thrilled to attend the second switch on since her recent inauguration and said: “Just two weeks ago I stood in Lapland in Rheenendal and witnessed the joy of residents as they received electricity. Today I am over-the-moon that these 120 dwellings in Die Gaatjie have joined the millions who, at the flip of a switch literally have light.”
The Mayor said that she would be able to sleep much better at night knowing that the families in Die Gaatjie would have simple things that many take for granted, such as light for children to do their homework, or power to charge cell phones. She did point out to the residents that having electricity also brings responsibility.
“Use it wisely as the cost of this power is determined by government and does not come cheap. I hope to come back in a few months and see just what positive affect electricity has had on your lives.”
Bouw-Spies concluded, “I am pleased with the progress that our Integrated Human Settlement Department has made in providing our people in the Greater Knysna with basic services. I would like to thank the Manager of the Department, Mawethu Penxa and a big thank you to the Department of Energy.”
The municipality’s Integrated Human Settlements Department is committed to upgrading informal settlements by providing access to basic services such as potable water, sanitation, access to roads electricity and incrementally providing those that qualify with access to top structures. This is done in line with the Provincial Strategic objective 6, an approach that is endorsed by Provincial Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela.