Durban Centre for the Disabled to be sold

KZN Public Work says the occupants of the Enduduzweni Centre will keep their livelihoods

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Maria Cebekhulu (holding a tray) and Sibongile Mdwadwa live and work at the Enduduzweni Center for Disabled. Photos: Manqulo Nyakombi

  • The Department of Public Works is in the process of selling the Enduduzweni Centre for the Disabled in Umlazi.
  • There are 38 people, most of them blind, living at the centre and doing craftwork.
  • The Department of Social Development says the livelihoods of the occupants will not be disrupted.
  • None of the occupants we spoke to last week were aware of any pending sale.

Since the 1990s, the Enduduzweni Centre for the Disabled in Umlazi has been both a home and a workplace for a group of people living with disabilities. Currently, there are 38 people working and living at the centre. Most of them are blind.

They do craft work and use their social grants to buy materials such as cane and varnish to make items such as chairs and trays. They sell trays for between R120 and R250 and chairs from R700. Buyers come to the centre but business has been slow.

The group say the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development (DSD) has abandoned them ever since they resisted vacating the centre in 2018.

The centre is dilapidated. The windows are broken, the ceilings are collapsing, the toilets are not working properly, and the grass has not been mown for months.

In November 2018, the Durban High Court ordered the department and the eThekwini Municipality to reconnect the centre’s electricity.

There are rumours that the provincial Department of Public Works is planning to sell the centre to the Mangosuthu University of Technology.

On Monday, spokesperson Mlu Khumalo confirmed that the department is currently finalising the sale of the centre to an institution, but he refused to name the institution.

He said the institution that takes over will assist the current occupants, and that all stakeholders agreed to “ensure that the livelihoods of the occupants are not disrupted in any manner”.

But none of the occupants we spoke to last week were aware of any pending sale of the building where they live and work in.

Sibongile Mdwadwa started to work at Enduduzweni in 1999. She is blind and lives at the centre.

She said DSD took away their stipends in 2018 and told them to apply for disability grants. She had been earning R6,000 a month. A disability grant is R1,990. It will increase to R2,080 in April.

Mdwadwa raised her four children through the work she did at the centre.

“They are treating us like we are nothing,” she said.

She said the centre was originally built by the Natal Society for the Blind in 1938, and they feel this is a legacy to uphold.

“The only thing we want from them [government] is to renovate this centre and we will take it from there. We have the skill. We will continue training other disabled people,” she said.

Maria Cebekhulu said they had each donated R500 of their disability grant money to buy material in December.

“The only thing we currently don’t have is varnish but we will buy it once we receive our social grants,” she said.

Cebekhulu lives in one room. The window is broken, the ceiling is damp, and the toilet next to her room is vandalised.

There are security guards at the building but vandalism persists.

“We are not safe. Criminals do as they please by stealing cables. If this centre was not important to us we would have gone home a long time ago,” said Cebekhulu.

“I have two children and they are still young – eight and 14. Their education is expensive. I can’t raise them with only a disability grant. I have big dreams for my children. I want to give them the best education that I didn’t have, but our government doesn’t seem to understand,” she said.

Provincial DSD spokesperson Mhlaba Memela said that in 2015/16, the plan was for a major renovation to transform the centre from being a centre for the blind to one for disability, and it asked Public Works to assess the building.

Its report found the place not suitable for occupation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and building regulations. The building was condemned and it was recommended that it be shut down and an alternative place found.

“Another detailed condition assessment was conducted by an independent service provider who also condemned the building,” said Memela.

The department had intended to relocate the occupants to facilities for the elderly or to live with their families.

“Some of the occupants refused to vacate the building,” said Memela.

Others that had gone to live with their families soon moved back to the centre.

The Enduduzweni Centre is in a dilapidated condition.

TOPICS:  Disability Rights Unemployment

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