The Democratic Alliance today launches a “Light up your Life” campaign to install solar lighting in informal settlements in Gauteng.
Thirteen shacks in the Zamani informal settlement now benefit from a pilot solar power installation sponsored by the DA.
Each shack has three lights and a cellphone charger. Residents' lives are changed dramatically as they don't have to spend on candles and paraffin to light up their shacks, which is dangerous and unhealthy.
One solar panel with one battery can power up to eight shacks with light. The cost is about R2 500, which is affordable for shack residents who each spend more than R100 a month on candles and paraffin for lighting. Within three to four months they will recover what they previously spent on lighting, and thereafter light will essentially be free and safe.
I was inspired in this campaign by my monthly visits to informal settlements where I stay the night to experience what life is like for those who live there.
In October last year I stayed with Ms Nthabiseng Msibi and her family. I was touched by her daughter studying for her matric exams by the light of a candle. I also found it difficult to sleep because of the paraffin fumes.
Ms Msibi now has light powered by the sun, and she can also charge her cellphone.
The DA will also promote the “Litre of Light” bottle for dark windowless shacks during the day. This is a two-litre clear plastic cold-drink bottle filled with water that is placed in the shack roof and reflects the sunlight to light up the shack. This simple and effective device was invented in Brazil in 2002 and has proved very successful in poor areas in the Philippines.
It is unlikely that Eskom will electrify many informal settlements in Gauteng in the near future.
The alternative is solar power, which is an idea whose time has come as solar technology is now affordable and effective.
People need light in their lives, and should not have to use candles or paraffin, which all too often lead to the tragedy of shack fires in which lives and possessions are lost.
We have shown today what can be done with affordable solar technology.
The DA will campaign in Gauteng for all councils and the provincial government to promote solar lighting in informal settlements. Sponsorship has already been obtained for solar lights at an informal settlement in the DA-controlled Midvaal, which will lead the way in this initiative.
We will also work with corporate sponsors, NGOs and residents to light up people's lives with solar lights in all informal settlements.