Township gets a big byte out of cookbook proceeds
The sponsored book means free wifi for the residents - and it's revolutionised their lives
Stembile Mbanjwa’s handmade lasagne with handpicked spinach and Tutu Zuma’s sun-cooked rhubarb stew are helping fund free wifi for a community of 40,000.
The people of Mpophomeni, a township outside Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, have no data woes thanks to Mnandi (Tasty), a cookbook sponsored by the N3 Toll Concession for the Mpophomeni Conservation Group.
Phone in hand, Penz Malinga sits on a rock on the main street of the township while she participates in an online education course. Across the road, environmental champion Mlondi Mpungose and his colleagues check their e-mail in his car parked outside the library, while a few metres away student teacher Xolani Gumede chats on WhatsApp on his stoep.
They are all connected to wifi that is transmitted from the library and is available all day and night on streets and to homes within a kilometre of the building.
“Wifi is available to everyone. There is no password. The intention is for pupils to do research for school projects, enable people to check e-mails, do online applications, and assist anyone who cannot afford to purchase data,” says the book's compiler Nikki Brighton.
She says the book has been on sale for the past two years, but wifi became available to the township in January.
“We were given the opportunity to choose what to do with the proceeds from the sale of the book. Wifi is something everyone can benefit from and make use of.
“It is also very enabling for a wide cross-section of the community – from schoolkids and job seekers to farmers selling their produce and tourism organisations marketing activities in Mpophomeni.”
Residents living outside the wifi zone drive to the library at all hours to connect.
“The street is always littered with people who are on their phones and laptops. At night I walk from my house to the area outside the library to access the wifi. My dog sits next to me as I study online,” Malinga says.
She says residents do not complain about not having access to YouTube, being allowed to do system updates or downloading music or videos.
“We understand that this resource has to be shared fairly. There is also a firewall to ensure that there is no access to pornography or gambling sites.”
Mpungose, a supervisor at the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust, has an unusual office.
“My car is now my office. We arrive at the library early every morning to check our e-mails and access the Internet before we go out to work on a water and sanitation project. We are saving a lot of money thanks to the free wifi,” he says.
Gumede’s house is prime property. It is directly opposite the library.
“I can’t remember when was the last time that I bought data. Just imagine how much money the residents of Mpophomeni are saving each month without having data costs on their bills.”
The student teacher jokes that he could boast that his property came with free unlimited wifi if he decided to put it on the market.
“Not many people can say that especially in a township.”