A group of 30 disgruntled blind people from the Itireleng School for the Blind in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, went on strike on Wednesday, locking in about 50 staff members in what can be referred to as a “semi-hostage drama” because they are unhappy their work was being showcased at the Easter Rand Show without their knowledge or consent.
The group was also unhappy that the workshop where they manufacture their goods has been unlocked without involving them in the decision. Management at the centre were also locked in.
Sanco secretary in Ward 21 Phillip Letlape said the centre had been closed by the department of social development since January this year after the blind people complained of maladministration, mismanagement of funds and nepotism.
The group said they would keep the staff locked in until the department met with them. On Thursday morning, the situation appeared to be ongoing, with the blind people having spent the night outside the centre.
“They are unhappy because no attention has been given to their complaints for the past four months, but the department saw it fit to take their work to the Rand Show,” Letlape said.
He said the group asked Sanco to step in because they felt their concerns were not being addressed.
“They only received letters in January saying the workshop will be closed, but nothing has so far been done to address their concerns and the problems around the workshop.
“The group is struggling since the closure of the workshop because they use the articles they make to generate an income to support their families,” Letlape said.
According to him, three police vans came out to the scene earlier when the group started to gather at around 3pm on Wednesday but then left.
“The staff inside were supposed to knock off at 4pm this afternoon.”
Letlape said it was important the staff were not being held hostage.
“The group only wants the department to return their articles and to lock the workshop and hand the keys over to the police for safekeeping until their problems can be solved. They also demand the immediate intervention of Minister Bathabile Dlamini.”
The department was not immediately available for comment.