This makes Erongo the least successful in rural electrification in the country despite the fact that the region has the highest urban electrification rate with up to eight out of 10 houses electrified.
Erongo RED chief executive officer Robert Kahimise says this makes the challenge of rural electrification a reality for them considering their vision: Electricity for All by 2020.
Ellie Cloete, one of the Topnaars who have been living along the Kuiseb River since the 1800s, has learned to live in the harsh desert environment without electricity – next to a powerline that powers the pumps which feed Walvis Bay’s water needs.
“We have been promised electricity but we still have nothing. How do other rural areas like Spitzkoppe and Otjimbingwe get electricity ahead of us?” she asks.
Using wood has had an impact on the trees over many years, and it is costly to go to Walvis Bay to buy wood, gas and paraffin.
More than a 1 000 Topnaars live along the river, with Utuseb as their ‘capital’ where only the JP Brand school and a small clinic are electrified by NamPower.
“Sometimes we go to the school to recharge our cellphones. The solar panels at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry offices have already broken down, so they only have solar power in the day,” says Elton Fischer at Utuseb.
Topnaars vice chief Stoffel Animab says there is a definite need for electricity for basic needs, such as cooking and preserving food in fridges.
“We asked NamPower if we can connect households there, but they said the electricity is not for private use. There has been talk of electrifying the houses here but we are still waiting,” he says.
As Cloete rightly observes, the small rural community at the foot of the Spitzkoppe has electricity, whether it is a shack or a house. The network there has been neatly organised and installed by Erongo RED.