Opinion – Employment opportunities for people with disabilities is zero to none

I asked the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, whether she would take steps to ensure that their target of 3% people with disabilities will be met.

By Michael Bagraim for IOL.

It must be remembered that former Minister of Employment Mildred Oliphant set a target of 3% employment of people with disabilities. This target was set almost a decade ago.

We are told that people with disabilities make up more than 7% of our population in the Republic. We are also told people with disabilities form part of those who were previously disadvantaged during apartheid.

The current legislation with regard to employment equity targeting does include people with disabilities. The government is fully aware of its own targets and that its target of 3% has never been achieved.

Despite numerous reminders, the Ministry in the Presidency and the Employment Ministry have done very little to ensure that people with disabilities are brought into the mainstream of employment and they have done even less with regard to the employment of people with disabilities within government service.

I hasten to add that the government has within its own control the ability to employ people with disabilities in the civil service. This employment figure of 3% could be reached within one year if there was a will to help those with disabilities.

Unfortunately, the government does not seem to care about those with disabilities and is hellbent on cadre deployment as opposed to reaching its own targets.

When the private sector does not reach targets, we read a lot about it but very seldom is the government exposed.

When the Minister of Employment and Labour was asked about employment equity, his answer was “of concern is that the representation of persons with disabilities remained approximately at 1% over the years in both the private and public sectors”.

The Labour Minister had to admit that the Employment Equity Legislation had not produced the results the government had expected.

When I personally asked what steps the Minister in the Presidency had taken to ensure that government departments reach the 3% target of employing people with disabilities in the public service, the minister said they were trying to pursue a 2% employment target and went on to state “a legislative reform in line with the white paper on the rights of persons with disabilities 2015 is required. The envisaged disability legislation will also provide an enforcement mechanism in this regard”.

In other words, the government seems to have done nothing at all and in fact is now relying on legislation to push it to comply with its own targets. It is ridiculous that a government has to legislate against its own failure.

The Ministry in the Presidency went on to state “there are currently engagements between the Department of Public Service and Administration, Department of Employment and Labour, as well as the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities regarding the employment equity targeting”.

This after 10 years of doing nothing. The reality is that more onerous legislation is awaited, which could take 10 more years, and there are also talk shops being set up between the three government departments.

These talk shops are the current government’s way of “kicking for touch”.

What is clear is that our people with disabilities need to fight for themselves as the current ANC-led government is not really interested in this sector of our population.

Furthermore, the employment of people with disabilities does not appear to be something on the government’s agenda, and there is certainly no rush to place it on the agenda, despite the legislation enabling it to do so.

Due to this lack of interest, there is also a lack of interest in enhancing the education for the disability sector in almost every institution.

The trade union movement never places the employment of the disabled on its annual demands and I have never seen the employment of people with disabilities as part of the agenda of the normal wage negotiations.

South Africa has fallen far behind countries with similar economies which have developed a culture of employing people with disabilities. This government’s inactivity has to a large degree rubbed off on the private sector as well.

Because of the current crisis of unemployment, many businesses can pick and choose individuals with varying skills without having to try and accommodate those with disabilities.

The lack of oversight on this issue is clearly caused and exacerbated by the ANC’s government refusal to take the employment sector into account.

Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer and regular contributor to the Cape Argus.



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