from SAVIOUS KWINIKA in De Aar, Northern Cape
Northern Cape Bureau
DE AAR, (CAJ News) – MULTINATIONAL companies operating in the African continent have a reputation of accumulating wealth from local communities where they carry out their businesses but not ploughing back to the societies where resources are extracted from.
The environment is mostly left degraded.
Longyuan South Africa Renewables, the Chinese wind, solar and renewable energy giant, is changing that trend in South Africa, where it has transformed a number of communities and livelihoods, especially in De Aar, Northern Cape.
Through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme, Longyuan SA, has appropriated large commercial farms where it has installed new advanced wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy sources to improve people’s lives, and the generality of the local community.
Longyuan SA, which is a member of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), bankrolls many charitable organisations in De Aar and surrounding communities in the Northern Cape with the provision of healthcare centres, schools, elderly people’s homes, and job opportunities for the locals.
Some commercial farmers in this arid region of De Aar, and other parts of the Kalahari desert, have leased their farms with Longyuan SA for wind, solar and other renewable energy projects that now feed the vulnerable national power grid with electricity.
Among the farmers is Fritz Conrad Battenhaussen.
The farm is 7 100 hectares (about 17 750 acres).
Before leasing the farm for 25 years for the generation of a wind energy project, he bred sheep for mutton and wool.
“This wind project has changed our lives massively (I and family). The lease is giving us enough cash for my family, and other business initiatives I do,” Battenhaussen exclusively told CAJ News Africa in an interview.
Deswin Bassen (28), a graduate of Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), is a beneficiary of Longyuan SA’s CSR program.
He told CAJ News Africa he now has a stable and permanent job as electrical engineer-cum-maintenance officer at the Chinese renewable energy giant, courtesy of Longyuan SA’s CSR.
The Chinese company initially offered him a bursary to study electrical engineering at the TUT.
“Without a bursary, it is always impossible for youngsters coming from poor families to go to universities or realise their dreams,” Bassen said.
“When my father lost his job in 2008, would you imagine a family of seven people living in one room? That’s my life story before joining Mlilo (a subsidiary of Longyuan SA).”
Bassen has been with Longyuan SA’s Mlilo for three years now and believes his life has been tremendously transformed.
“I hope to add value to the company which gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. My advice to fellow youths, please, go for courses such as electrical, and other practical subjects to increase chances of securing jobs in the market,” he said.
Okhona Ndengane, a healthcare coach with a Chinese brankrolled mobile healthcare facility, also welcomed the transformation of communities.
The health facility offers services to areas such as Britstown, Hanover, Petrusville and Philipstown in the Northern Cape province.
“We also reach as many schools as possible,” said Ndengane.
On average, they treat between 80 and 100 people a day at schools and 40 to 50 patients at community level.
The facility also comes in handy with the advent of load shedding as it is unaffected.
“Instead of people travelling long distances to seek medical attention, we drive this mobile healthcare facility to their proximity,” Ndengana said.
The Chinese provided the mobile healthcare facility, solar energy solution to the mobile clinic, equipment while the provincial department provides medication in this partnership.
Meanwhile, a daycare school for children, Mthuthuzeli Daycare, received free food and school material. Teachers’ salaries have been paid for by Longyuan SA through its CSR program.
Mthuthuzeli Daycare principal, Rina Ferrus, said without the Longyuan SA’s contribution, many parents would not afford to have their children attend pre-schools due to the high level of poverty in De Aar.
“Longyuan SA has changed our community for better, if not the best. Some parents here cannot afford to pay school fees because the majority of them are poor,” Ferrus said.
Some 153 kids receive education for free.
Longyuan SA also provides kids with free three meals per day covering breakfast, lunch and supper.
“Some daycare centres charge R1 000 (¥382)per month per child for the day’s upkeep and education, but here, parents are not paying, thanks to the Chinese investors,” Ferrus said.
Safety Production and Technology Department Manager for Longyuan SA, Sheng Bin, said his company would continue to support education, health and elderly wherever it does business.
“Longyuan SA attaches great importance to basic education in South Africa, and nurtures the ‘flower of hope’ for the future of the African continent,” he said.
The company insists on carrying out the education action of ‘Aid for Education, Building Dreams, Develop Talents’ yearly to help children realize their dreams.
It has donated funds to the National School of the Arts in South Africa to alleviate operation difficulties, developed scholarship programmes and donated R4 million (¥1,52 million) every year to subsidize poor but talented college students so that they finish their studies.
Students of this program were admitted to do internships on the company’s projects.
Longyuan SA has so far funded 112 academically outstanding university students nationwide.
It funded the establishment of four early learning centers in De Aar to provide a platform for children from local poor families to receive education.
A total of 469 needy local children have been admitted to school. The company also helped the funded early learning centre install external fences to enable the protection of children, internal facilities and property.
Longyuan SA had also installed wireless networks in two early learning centres to facilitate children’s learning making wifi (internet) available.
“In addition, we also provided R50 000 to the Children’s Village for purchasing children’s beds and bedding, receiving a letter of thanks from SOS International Children’s Village,” Bin said.
In 2020, Longyuan SA launched the Longyuan Mulilo Health Project in De Aar.
This is part of a project in which the company purchased a mobile clinic to the value of R4 million. The facility is equipped with complete medical equipment and medical personnel.
This project can provide free and high-quality health care for 9 000 residents each year.
In 2021, Longyuan SA donated more than R5,6 million to the municipal government of Renosterberg to fund a key water project.
It provided professional technical support and personnel training to help the town launch the water supply equipment upgrade.
Residents relied heavily on underground water for their supply for a long time.
Bin noted because of the limited infrastructure, the water supply could only meet about half of their daily demands.
The first phase of the equipment upgrade has been completed to enable it to meet the water demands of local residents, while reducing the electricity consumption through solar water pumps.
Longyuan SA also supported the development of De Aar Stadium, which it has handed over to the local municipality.
The R9 million refurbishment saw facilities such as the football field, four netball courts, stands and locker rooms presented.
“Projects often serve as sources of valuable insights for one another, yet they cannot be completely duplicated. It is essential to take into account the specific context, choose the strategies that have proven successful, and then adapt and improve upon them to ensure they are appropriate for various projects,” Bin concluded.
– CAJ News