MILESTONE: Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba attended the official electrification of Slovo Park yesterday.
MILESTONE: Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba attended the official electrification of Slovo Park yesterday.
‘If I could just wake up one day and see an electric pole being installed in our street that would be a joyous day for me.”

This was the dream that Mohau Melane long cherished with his mother on how the community activist wanted the people of Slovo Park to have the dignity of electricity.

Melane’s mother, Mary Melane, shared his dream with The Star yesterday when Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba visited the township to witness the electrification of the informal settlement.

“I never understood what he was talking about, but now I see that what he was fighting for has been realised,” said Mary.

But Melane, who died in October, did not live to see the electricity he fought so hard to get into his community.

The residents described Slovo Park as “Dark City” because the informal settlement didn’t have electricity for over 20 years, since its founding in the 1990s.

In 2016, the local residents secured a groundbreaking victory in the South Gauteng High Court.

The court interdict stated that the city must provide electricity and basic services for the residents.

Melane, as chairperson of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum, led the activists who won the case.

In February, the mayor’s office, in partnership with City Power, launched the installation of electricity infrastructure for the community, which is home to more than 4000 households.

The road wasn’t easy for Melane, as there were many naysayers even within his own community, said his mother.

“There were people who would swear at him and say bad things about him in the community, but now they praise him, as if they are happy with what he was doing all along,” said Mary.

She said the community members would say Melane spent the money donated and bought himself a car, but once the electricity was being installed, the people kept quiet.

His niece Constance Melane said her uncle would go around tirelessly trying to borrow money to attend meetings with City Power and transport community members to the court.

“My uncle would be so happy and proud, and he wasn’t the type of person who would say ‘I’m the person who did this’. He would say that this was fought by the community,” she said.

Mashaba also visited the home of Ruth Mohlape, 53, who has been living in Slovo Park since 1994.

She was visibly emotional when she thanked the mayor for the installation of electricity and urged him to assist other communities.

Mohlape said she had been using candles and paraffin stoves, and her 19-year-old child would have to study in the dark.

“I am so happy, I don’t even know what to say about how overjoyed I am that we now have electricity in Slovo.”

The mayor said the electricity rollout was part of the city’s aim to bring dignity to people and steer them away from connecting to electricity illegally. Illegal connections have started numerous fires and led to unnecessary loss of life in informal communities.

“We are really pleased that the people of Slovo Park can have electricity officially, so that they don’t have to steal it,” said Mashaba.

“The people of this community were not stealing because they wanted to be thieves; they deserve to have electricity.”

Mashaba pointed out that there were about 200 informal settlements in Joburg and more than half of them don’t have basic services.

“Men and women, our sisters, our brothers and fathers are living in communities where they don’t have dignity. As government, with limited resources, the next few years will be a big challenge for us.”

The mayor said the city had committed to provide electricity and proper roads for a minimum of 10 informal settlements every year.