Winter in Tembisa


It is almost as if life stops and this beast from nowhere takes over.

You are in control, but this beast has the remote and is busy pressing buttons.

If it’s not deciding what you should wear and what time you should be home, then you will feel it in the morning when you are supposed to wake up for work or school.

You will find that some days are colder than others, but there is always that special one when it is extremely cold and it is hard to continue as normal with your day unless you are wearing almost the entire wardrobe.

I remember my first winter here in Tembisa; it was awfully cold for four straight months from May to August.

My brother, who I stayed with at the time, warned me that winter here is different to winter in Limpopo.

I mean, winter is winter irrespective of the area, right?

Well, I soon learnt that winter here is different and quite difficult to adjust to. Depending on where you stay in Tembisa, the winter season is enough to send you back to where you come from, if that place is not Tembisa.

Sections closer to the rivers have the worst winter, but it is nothing compared to what some of our brothers and sisters in shacks experience. Every winter season there are sections that are highly populated with shacks. These residents suffer the most.

In shacks without electricity, people use paraffin stoves for cooking and paraffin lamps for light.

Often, the paraffin stoves double as heaters for those who cannot afford paraffin heaters.

And even those who can afford the paraffin heaters, buying extra litres of paraffin can be challenging.

So the majority end up using an ‘mbawula’, a man-made heater which is also used by street children around Johannesburg.

The mbawula is made from a 20 or 25 litre used oil can with a few wires connected from one side to another, forming a nest in between to trap the coals and ultimately warming the whole shack.

However, the tin is punched, making small holes around the ‘stomach’ in order for it to distribute heat better.

Apart from the mbawula, there are coal stoves that people use. According to experts, coal stoves are safer than mbawulas, but just like with any appliance, one needs to be extra careful when using them.

For those who use heaters, electricity bills can be quite high. There is no use in buying too much electricity when there are options you can explore.

Tau Ya Masepeng

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