The Eastern Cape Department of Social Development (SocDev) is in potential breach of a number of laws in relation to health, safety and occupational health and the protection of the personal information of clients.
In places where the DA governs, emphasis is placed on providing suitable and safe conditions for staff and for the communities who rely on such state facilities, whether these are in rural- or urban areas.
Two weeks ago, (subs: 29 Sept) DA Shadow Minister for Social Development, Bridget Masango MP, Phesheya Kweciba constituency leader Veliswa Mvenya MPL and I paid a visit to the Tsolo offices of the Department of Social Development. We found that the officials, social workers and the public face the risk of injury every day due to the dilapidated condition of the structures. This is an insult to their dignity.
We were informed that the park home-type office had not been maintained since its construction in 1998. This office accommodates some 25 staff members and provides social services to an average of 80 clients daily.
We observed the following:
- Inadequate support structures, for example, damaged stairs;
- No handrails for persons with disabilities and the elderly;
- No suitable access such as ramps for people confined to wheelchairs;
- Gaping holes in the floors;
- Dilapidated furniture and office equipment;
- No lock-up cabinets resulting in large amounts of displaced files, therefore breaching the Protection of Information Act (POPI), which stipulates protection of personal information of clients;
- No serviced fire extinguishers;
- Ablution facilities used as a kitchen and an archive storage; and
- No proper shelter to protect people from inclement weather.
Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi, must investigate whether her department is in breach of the Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA) 85 of 1993. Her department has the responsibility to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for all citizens. The MEC’s negligence to act in the best interest of SocDev staff members and the public is a clear indication of an MEC’s failure to comply with the provisions of the OHSA.
I have written to MEC Sihlwayi to request her to take corrective action at the Tsolo office urgently.
The MEC must:
- Ensure that a thorough hazard assessment is done in order to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
- Ensure that the office complies with the requirements of the POPI Act, as social development clients’ information are scattered all over the office;
Ensure that the office complies with the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, part S. The Tsolo-office is in gross violation of the Act, as people with disabilities (PWD) cannot safely access the building. For my letter, click here: Oversight visit to Tsolo DSD offices – 2 October 2017
It would be prudent for the MEC to extend assessments to SocDev offices in the rest of the province in regards to all three mentioned Acts in order to avert any potential civil claims resulting from non-compliance.
The DA cares about the dignity of all our citizens. It is time for change. Under a well-run, caring DA government, we will, every three years, conduct accessibility audits of all our departmental buildings. We will ensure that all new buildings are “built for everyone” by adopting a universal design approach, that provides comprehensive, best-practice guideline on how to design, build and manage buildings and spaces so that they can be readily accessed and used by everyone, regardless of age, sizeability or disability.
The DA believes that social spending should be focused on the disadvantaged and that such spending should improve the quality of life of individuals born into poverty. We also believe that citizens are capable of taking responsibility for their own destiny and should be viewed as partners, not subjects, in development. — Kobus Botha MPL, Shadow MEC for Social Development