Blind em­ploy­ees protest against un­fair­ness

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - VIRGILATTE GWANGWA

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.

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