One of the oldest organisation’s advocating for the rights of disabled people, Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) is allegedly on the brink of collapse due to financial problems.
According to employees who spoke to African Times, but refused to be named fearing reprisal, the non-profit organisation (NPO) is even failing to execute its duties due to financial constraints allegedly caused in part by maladministration by its previous management.
DPSA has been fighting for the rights of disabled people for more than 59 years. It was formed in 1964 and registered as a non-profit organization in 2000 under the Department of Social Development. According to the NPO’s business profile, it has more than 59 employees in South Africa’s nine provinces.
Its members include Cancer South Africa, the Deaf Federation of South Africa, the South African National Council for the Blinds, Age in Action, the Disabled Children Action Group, Albinism Society South Africa, Epilepsy South Africa, Quadriplegic South Africa and individual people, among others.
“It is painful to see such a big institution failing to do its work due to the lack of funding. There are many projects that we should have undertaken but lots of them were delayed. Remember that the institution was being funded by international donors, but when we got democracy in 1994 the funding had stopped and the government through its different entities took over,” said the source.
“The administration that was running the NPO was not complying with the needs of the funders. And that affected the institution because we have to start afresh to make it comply with the needs of the funders.”
Independent disability activist Dolfred Sihlangu said the issue is already affecting many disabled employees.
“It is true that some of the NPO employees are now sitting at home. Remember, there was a programme where these employees were going out to identify some of the people and offer them assistance and recruit them but now the programme has already stopped due to lack of funding. People are already affected by this problem,” Sihlangu said.
DPSA national chairperson, Patrick Mahlakwana, denied allegations that the entity might close down but conceded that it was indeed facing financial challenges.
“It is true that we are facing a hard time as an organisation. We don’t have money to fund our projects. Remember, recently the government announced that sign language is now recognised as one of the official languages in the country. By law soon after that was announced, we were supposed to go out and meet with organisations representing the Deaf to talk about the way forward, but it never happened.”
When asked what led to the NPO’s funding issues, Mahlakwana stated that some of his predecessors failed to ensure the organisation complied with regulations which were required for it to be funded by the various government departments.
He, however, refused to elaborate on what exactly the previous management did wrong.
“I cannot talk to you about what exactly happened that led to the institution’s current situation. But to address this problem we already interacted with many stakeholders that I cannot divulge to you at the moment. This organisation is being funded by different government departments depending on the projects we are working on.”
Mahlakwana said if the problem persisted, it would affect many DPSA projects, including the funding and implementation of economic empowerment for people with disabilities.
He mentioned that they were currently unable to move around to accomplish some of the NPO’s projects which required them to meet with the relevant stakeholders.
When asked why the DPSA was in financial crisis, Department of Social Development ( DSD) spokesperson Lumka Oliphant referred enquiries to the provincial social development departments, saying they were responsible for funding some of the DPSA projects.
“The provinces are the ones funding the NPOs. If they were funded by other departments, you need to talk to those departments. Last year the DSD sector alone supported NPOs with R5, 6 billion and R5,9 billion this year has been budgeted for provincial departments of social developments.”