Disabled Are Ignored
The Portfolio Committee of Women, Children and People with Disabilities are up in arms. They deplore the continuing exclusion of people with disabilities from the formal employment sector despite commitments by government and business to aggressively empower people with disabilities and put them to work in the economy.
Their assessment followed a week-long oversight visit to Gauteng by the Portfolio Committee, to view projects that were established principally to create employment and develop the skills of women and people with disabilities. The projects visited were funded by government entities such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Although the committee welcomed the increase in funding for businesses run by women, they said there were not enough opportunities for people with disabilities to get jobs. The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Dorothy Ramodibe, said “what came up in a majority of the projects was the low number of persons with disabilities either employed or owning the projects. Proper focus should be placed on strategies to address this.”
Mr Willie Holl, Managing Director of Medunsa Organization for the Disabled Entrepreneurs, (MODE) said that people are still afraid to hire people with disabilities because of “fear of the unknown”. His organisation was created to seek socio-economic solutions for persons with disabilities to work in micro enterprises and lobby for business skills training and mentorship. “We seek to remove people with disabilities from a welfare mindset into a self-empowerment mindset and through this re-integrate them into society at large.’
Committee members called on the Department of Labour and other government departments to ratchet up their support of the Sheltered Employment Factories (SEF) that operate under the Department of Labour. SEF employ people with disabilities and manufacture bulk clothing for hospitals, furniture and other materials. SEF chief executive Mr Silumko Nondwangu said that while the mandate of the factories was to “advance government’s national agenda of active participation in the economy of the country by people with disabilities this was hampered by the fact that these factories were no longer ‘preferred suppliers’, post 1994”. The sheltered employment factories were first established 60 years ago. Currently they have a staff complement of 1050 while they have the capacity to employ 3000 people with disabilities.
“SEF’s financial situation and lack of support from government departments has led to a considerable decrease in the number of people we can employ,” the CEO explained.
The Committee further called for better cooperation between government entities such as the NEF and SEDA, to increase their impact and cut out duplication. The funding agencies should also work hard on their marketing initiatives as many people on the ground did not know of the services they provided and how to access them. “Although we have witnessed some good work being done, the Committee must take this up,” Mr Holl said.