Kanyamazane — The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities has worked hard to ensure that people with disabilities are no longer only offered sheltered employment but can now be employed at cooperatives.
Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said sheltered employment had in the past been used to simply keep people with disabilities busy regardless of their education level, but today these people were able to be economically active.
"We have transformed this, today we say 'let them make money'. We believe that if they are given the necessary support, a business where standards are made and skills are developed, you begin to see that growth from a sheltered employment to cooperative," the deputy minister told SAnews.
She was speaking on Tuesday after a visit to the Tentele Activity Centre in Daantjie, Mpumalanga where people with disabilities are provided with skills.
The visit formed part of a Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme in Nelspruit to monitor progress made by the province in mainstreaming disability programmes and policies. Bogopane-Zulu was part of the senior government delegation including President Jacob Zuma, ministers from various government departments, provincial MECs and officials from the provincial and municipal government.
Bogopane-Zulu said the day was about "breaking the barrier and changing peoples' attitudes towards people living with disabilities".
She commended the work done at the centre.
Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and representatives from Department of Trade and Industry committed to assisting the people with disabilities at the centre with equipment and funding to boost their businesses, including sewing machines and fencing.
The department also said it would take a group of them to a business fair abroad so they could showcase their work and gain more skills from other businesspeople.
The visit to the centre was followed by a tour of the Tenteleni Primary School at Kanyamazane. The school caters for 1 132 learners with and without disabilities from Grade 1 to 7. It is regarded as one of the best schools in the country offering inclusive education.
The deputy minister commended the awareness campaigns on the rights of people with disabilities for playing a positive role in changing peoples' attitudes towards people living with disabilities.
"Our establishment has assisted in ensuring that people living with disability have a central point for coordination and monitoring."
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi acknowledged that there was still more to be done to ensure that people with disabilities have access to health institutions.
"I have to take the lead as I'm the responsible minister for the government departments' infrastructure. We will sit down with management so that we fast track the process of building a hospital," said Nxesi after a visit to the Kanyamazane Clinic.
The President held a meeting with people living with disabilities from the area. He said it was an opportunity to meet with them and hear their concerns, views and suggestions.
He said the visit was planned to coincide with the National Day for People with Disabilities, which is celebrated on 3 December.
"We've introduced the Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Ministry because we thought it was important that the work government does must be monitored and must be evaluated, this kind of occasion gives us that opportunity not only to receive the reports from the officials about what government is doing but get it direct from the people without any interpretation from other people.
"We need to know we are doing things right because we might come to an area with a programme and yet the area might need something else. We might have preferred a road where people need water and electricity - we might distort the priorities," Zuma explained.
Project Manager at the Tentele Activity Centre, Thomas Mabaso, said he was happy that the national government had recognised the work done by people with disabilities and took time to come and listen to their challenge with an aim to assist them.
"I'm so happy with the promises made to assist us in improving our projects, we've been running this centre since 1991 and I've never thought that one day it will have visitors from the Presidential offices.....this shows that government cares for us and our needs," said Mabaso.