Blind employees protest against unfairness
BLIND employees of the Are-Itireleng Trust said they had lost hope in the Department of Social Development, which had constantly ignored them, would resolve their problems.
The group from Ga-Rankuwa, near Pretoria, yesterday went to the department to ask for an intervention, saying employees were allegedly being mistreated by the managers. They had hoped to come out of the offices with resolutions, but that did not happen, they said.
Former chairperson of the board Nakau Mashabela said it was clear no one took them seriously. “We have laid all our dissatisfaction on the table with a woman who introduced herself as Mmatshipi, but we feel like we wasted our time coming here,” he said.
“She told us there was nothing they could do as they did not have the right to meddle in an NGO’s affairs.
“All of this does not make sense, because whenever manager Simon Poo has problems, they assist him, but now that it is us blind people, there is nothing they can do,” Mashabela said.
This week, the group spoke of ill-treatment by managers, who, they said, denied them access to funds and company vehicles, and hired and fired as they chose. The managers allegedly brought relatives to work in the workshop and did not consider the children of the workers, some of whom were also blind.
The workshop had been locked, leaving them without access to the grounds and buildings, by another manager, who died this week. The manager’s family had refused to hand over the keys.
The employees went to the department to seek assistance, but were told that their issues needed to be addressed with a director, who never showed up. “We were left unattended for hours, waiting for them to call their director,” said Norman Nkosi, who was allegedly fired for “talking too much” in 2013.
Mashabela said they had resolved to take the matter into their own hands, as advised by those at the department. “Due to the fact that we cannot force Poo and Alena Matsapola out from their management positions, we will have to go the legal route,” he said. They’d now take the two managers to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
Gauteng Social Development spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba said the department was aware of the matter and proper engagements had been done with the organisation.
“A series of meetings were held between senior management of the department, the board and management of Are-Itireleng, as well as former employees,” he said.
The organisation was an independent entity which had policies that governed its everyday activities; hence the department did not have control over its day-to-day functions, he said.
The employees were sad as they headed home yesterday, and said they felt they were being ignored largely because they were blind.