People living with disabilities in northern Limpopo say they have been left without jobs after a change in tenders for hospital tuck shops allegedly gave disabled caterers the boot.
About 100 people living with disabilities recently marched to the Vhembe District health offices to protest the Limpopo Department of Health’s decision to issue tenders for hospital tuck shops. It was the second such protest by the group over an employment dispute with the provincial department of health in about a week.
Read: Few jobs for SA disabled
“The department of health took away all the hospital tuck shops, which were previously run by disabled people, and decided to use tenders to operate all the tuck shops,” said Ndishavhelafhi Mphaphuli, secretary for the Association for the Disabled in Limpopo’s Vhembe District. “(That) left most of us unemployed (and) that’s why we are demanding that they give us jobs as they’re the ones who took them from us.”
“It is not easy to get employed in other government departments, especially if you’re wheelchair bound,” he added. “The tuck shops were our source of income as disabled residents.”
According to the association, people living with disabilities used to staff tuck shops at the province’s Tshilidzini, Donald Fraser and Siloam hospitals. The Limpopo Department of Health has now allegedly issued tenders for the running of these tuck shops.
Read: Disabled in SA most vulnerable to HIV infection
“We might be disabled but we also have got the right to employment like any other resident of South Africa,” said Zachariah Phosho who participated in the protest. “We feel neglected by the department of health, which took away all our tuck shops without even consulting with us.”
“It is so hard to get employed if you're disabled in South Africa,” he explained. “When you apply for a job, they do not look at your qualifications, but instead they look at your physical appearance.”
“If you’re a wheelchair bound, you know very well that you won’t get the job,” Phosho added. “It’s painful but true.”
A representative of the Vhembe District health department received protesters’ initial memorandum at a previous march and has promised to provide marchers with a response.
Limpopo Department of Health Spokesperson Derick Kganyago said the department was aware of the protest but said that he did not have details about what allegedly happened regarding hospital tuck shops.
Mphaphuli said protestors have vowed to continue fighting for answers and jobs, as well as an alleged shortage of orthopaedic shoes used by disabled people at Siloam Hospital. Kganyago did respond to requests for comment on the alleged shortage.
“We will fight for our rights until something is done about them,” he said. “We won’t sit down and feel sorry for ourselves without doing anything to change the current situation that disabled people are facing.”
Will South Africa EVER offer free services to the disabled?
SA's disabled trapped in cycles of poverty
7 tips to help you look after a disabled loved one with incontinence
Image: Wheelchair bound man from iStock