HOW TO HELP THE DISABLED

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

It’s tough living in a squatter camp. It’s even worse if you are disabled.

Imagine if you are in a wheelchair and have to go to an outside toilet. Or get water some distance away.

I recently spent a night in the shack of Mr Jimmy Nkuna at the Stoffel park informal settlement in Mamelodi.

He is 27 years old and confined to a wheelchair since he got polio as a child.

He wants to work, but has only had one temporary job.

Transport is a major problem for him as he needs assistance to get in and out a taxi.

He has limited prospects but fortunately has a loving family who provide help and comfort.

Community leaders took me to see other disabled people in the area.

Eighteen year old Shamein Mashao has deformed feet, so she can barely walk, and she also has difficulty talking.

She was in tears as she told me how expensive and difficult it was for her to get transport to Mamelodi hospital.

She should qualify for a disability grant of R1200 a month, but needs a doctor to assess her condition.

Getting an appointment with a state doctor for this purpose is not easy.

You could easily arrive, spend the whole day and then be told to come back the next day.

And a busy state doctor will often not provide the necessary details for you to qualify for a disability pension.

The Mamelodi Hospital has a terrible reputation. I was taken to see Mrs Martha Mahlanga, whose 21 year old son Kenneth had suffered for many years with his hip bone protruding from his skin.

Doctors couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with him, but didn’t even give him painkillers.

When we arrived to see him his mother told us he had passed away that very morning. What can one say in the face of such tragedy?

Another sad case is 8 year old George Kabini. He is blind, and his parents pay R8000 a year to send him to a private school as there is no state school that can help him.

We clearly need a more easily accessible welfare net for all types of disabilities.

But it would be better if disabled people could be assisted to help themselves. I am generally against quotas, but I approve of the 2% target that has been set for employment of disabled people in the civil service. There is also a target of 4% for skills development and 5% for procurement. It’s a necessary push to help those handicapped by nature but still have skills to offer and a will to be self-sufficient. People with disabilities currently constitute only 0.6% of state employees and 1% in private employment. This can easily be pushed up as technology bridges many gaps that can make disabled people productive. They are usually hard-working and loyal even when doing menial jobs.

I saw the pain and hardship of disabled people at Stoffel Park.

But I also saw courage and determination to overcome, as well as a supportive community.

There is hope if compassion is combined with practical upliftment measures.

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