Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the rural non-grid electrification by the joint venture between Shell Solar and Eskom, Bhipa (Flagstaff District)

24 February 1999

Premier of the Eastern Cape, Makhenkesi Stofile;
Minister for Mineral and Energy Affairs,. Penuel Maduna;
Our distinguished guests from Shell and Eskom;
Bhipa Community;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am filled with joy and pride to witness the launch of such an important venture. The development for our people, especially the rural poor, is a matter very close to my heart. I am therefore touched to be part of this launch of the Shell/Eskom Solar Electrification Programme.

Just recently the Eastern Cape had been hard hit by the forces of nature when tornadoes struck and people lost loved ones, homes and property. But nature can also nourish us and today we celebrate a new way of harnessing the life-giving power of the sun.

We are greeting the dawn of a new life that is becoming increasingly dependent on electricity. Indeed electricity is a basic need in our modern society. It brings light for the school-child to study by; information to communities through radio and TV. Storekeepers can stock perishable foods and new opportunities are created for small business.

Most of our people in the rural areas have had to do without electricity. In most cases this has meant having to walk long distances to collect wood. Many are using other expensive sources of power to meet their needs such as batteries or petrol and diesel driven generators. All these things are expensive.

In the RDP, our Reconstruction and Development Programme, electrification is central to improving the lives of those neglected by apartheid. Since our first democratic elections, over 2 million homes have been connected to the electricity grid. This has increased the number of homes on the grid from about one-third to nearly two-thirds, a remarkable achievement.

But connecting homes to the country's electricity grid is getting very expensive especially as we get deeper and deeper into the rural areas. Alternative methods have become important. That is why we give full support to efforts made by Shell and Eskom to bring our people electricity through the Solar Home System which is safe, affordable and friendly to the environment in which we live.

It makes me happy to know that this Shell/Eskom Solar Energy Home Systems Project is also going to generate jobs. It will strengthen government's initiative to promote the creation of much needed employment.

All this has been made possible by a partnership between the public sector and the business community of our country. On that note, I would like to thank Shell South Africa and Eskom for having embarked on a joint venture to contribute towards rural development, through the installation and maintenance of 50 000 Solar Home Systems by the year 2000.

Such projects are central to the government's policy on energy for the betterment of the lives of all South Africans, which brings together all the different ways of providing electricity.

We can proudly say that we have made a good start. To date, 1 300 rural schools and 400 rural health clinics have been electrified using Solar Electric Systems. But there is much more to be done. Another 15 000 schools and 1 600 clinics must still get solar electricity. In addition, about 2 million rural families have needs which can only be provided if the electrification programme is boosted by these methods.

Fortunately, we are blessed with high levels of sunshine year round giving us a renewable energy resource thanks to modern technology. The remote rural areas will benefit today because of the scientific knowledge available to us.

This electricity from the sun will, we know, not be enough for all the energy needs that families have, for cooking and for heating water and their houses. For that reason the service providers to whom concessions are issued will be expected as part of their operations to provide access to fuels such as paraffin or gas or even wood.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the community of Bhipa as recipients of this project, and as participants in making it happen. You are taking the lead in an important process that could benefit many of your compatriots in other parts of the country.

You should never forget how important it is to you pay for the services that are made available to you. This project needs to sustain itself so that funds can be released to provide services to those who still do not have them.

I want to urge you therefore to continue as partners in development, because we must all join hands in building our nation.

Once again, I thank Shell and Eskom for this wonderful project. This joint venture is a South African first and I am told a World first. This partnership between a public utility, the private sector and the community is in the true spirit of Masakhane.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I now declare the Shell/Eskom Solar Electrification Programme officially launched.

Issued by the Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website