Disabled government employees in Mpumalanga are forced to go back home because elevators in most buildings at the provincial government complex are broken.
An investigation by Ziwaphi revealed that of the 6 government buildings, only two had elevators that are in a working condition, these are buildings 3 and 7.
At least in one of the buildings, the office of the premier, the elevators have been out of order since August 2016.
The president of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), who is also an employee in the Mpumalanga provincial government, Robert Masambo, confirmed that he was aware of the problems faced by government employees living with disabilities.
“In deed it is a matter of grave concern particularly for disabled employees and disabled members of the public who come to the RGC for assistance
Some disabled employees are unable to reach their work stations and have to go back home,” said Masambo.
Masambo, who is an amputee, painted a bleak picture of the hardships faced by disabled government employees, since the elevators broke down.
“Those who come for meetings alternative arrangements have to be made at upper ground level. It is a serious inconvenience including for those who park at basement level because due to non-functionality of the lifts they resort to parking outside in the sun and sometimes have to endure rain while accessing their workstations,” he said.
Masambo expressed his frustration that while South Africa was celebrating disability month from 3 November to 3 December, there was nothing to celebrate for disabled employees at the government complex.
“As the world celebrate the international day of disabled people on the 3rd December and South Africa celebrate the disability month there is absolutely zero to celebrate. Collectively as the disability sector at national level resolved that instead we should mourn 37 lives lost of disabled people who died in Gauteng province due to the closure of a facility of people with mental disabilities,” said Masambo.
Masambo said it was an irony that when the Marikana massacre occurred in 2012, the whole world joined in condemning police brutality while 37 lives of disabled people were lost and no one talks of it including political parties.
Spokesperson for the department of public works, roads and transport, which is responsible for the maintenance of government buildings, David Nkambule, said that they were concerned about the situation.
“The Department of Public Works Roads and Transport is extremely concerned about the non functionality of some of the lifts at RGC. It is working tirelessly to find a lasting solution. To this end, it has terminated a contract it had with a service provider who was contracted for maintenance of lifts at River Side Government Complex (RGC) due to poor performance,” said Nkambule.
He disclosed that the department was now pinning its hope on the manufacturer of the elevators, and that the elevators would be operational in December 2016.
“The department has further decided to approach the manufacturer with the aim of expediting the process. The manufacturer has made commitment to do everything possible for the lifts to be operational by December 2016. This is done with the urgency it deserves given the importance of lifts in the work place. “The department regrets these developments and once more sincerely apologises for the inconvenience this is causing to employees,” said Nkambule.
Masambo said that he was concerned that the department was silent on what measures that they would take to address the current situation.
“Generally disabled people are not taken seriously including at national level. A typical example is the movement of disability from the Presidency to the Department of Social Development and at provincial level from the Premier Office to Social Development. Despite the entire disability sector, academics and other stakeholders’ outcry on the move,” said Masambo.
“This therefore confirms that our society is sick and needs some renewal. A life of a disabled person is the same as that of a non-disabled person,” he said.