A decade waiting for electricity

GLADYS Ndlovu always dreads the dawn of a new day.

By Lesley Moyo

It always means making a long trek to the bush to look for firewood, the only source of energy for the 51-year-old and her family.
She’s been waiting 10 years for
Zesa to connect her suburb to the power grid.
Ndlovu resides in one of Bulawayo’s sprawling, high-density suburbs, Cowdray Park, which is expanding rapidly. The latest census figures puts its population at over
50 000.
The section of the suburb where she lives has gone for over 10 years without electricity, as power utility, Zesa, drags its feet to connect them to the power grid.
While the establishment of new suburbs has decreased the pressure on the city authorities, they’re still faced with a long list of people looking for housing.
The city council housing waiting list is estimated at 100 000 people.
“We walk for more than 7km to look for firewood. We are harassed by city council game rangers or farm owners who sometimes catch us poaching firewood
on their farmland,” a disgruntled Ndlovu said.
While alternatives such as gas and paraffin are easily available, these products are more expensive than firewood.
Ndlovu simply cannot afford them and her meagre earnings from her pension cannot sustain her and the family.
The city by-laws prohibit the cutting down of trees and perpetrators are often fined. But residents have long defied the city council on this matter.
Ambrose Sibindi, the organising secretary of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association, says that while his
association does not condone the wanton cutting of trees, the residents are in a
crisis.
“There is a law that protects the environment, but residents are in a difficult situation.
“We don’t encourage people to cut down trees, but there are people who live in suburbs like Pumula South, Cowdray Park and Emganwini who have gone for more than 10 years without electricity.
“That is why these people then resort to using firewood. We don’t blame residents because this is a governance issue,” Sibindi said.
He added said there has been talks between the power utility and resident associations, but so far there has not been any move by the power utility to address the situation.
The Forestry Commission’s forestry and wildlife ecologist Mthelisi Msebele says deforestation is a serious problem.
“In 2002, the forests were denser and there was more canopy cover compared to 2012 and that is why we are saying deforestation is a serious problem,” Msebele said.
“The period between June and October is the time when we experience a growth in deforestation largely because of wood poaching and incidents of veldt fires.”
Meanwhile, the long wait for electricity continues for many. — Radio Netherlands

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