Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Promoting the Employability and Employment of People with Disabilities in the South African Public Service

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Promoting the Employability and Employment of People with Disabilities in the South African Public Service

Article excerpt


Transformation of the South African Public Service, especially in regard to the employability and employment of people with disabilities, emerged as a high priority of the 1994 post-apartheid democratically elected Government. It is envisaged that people with disabilities will comprise 2% of total Public Service employment by 2010. The initial part of the article focuses on the principal legislative and institutional measures to promote the employability and employment of people with disabilities. Thereafter, concerns and challenges, as well as proposals for promotion and improvement are discussed in terms of the 2008 Assessment on Disability Equity in the Public Service and the 2006 Job Access Strategic Framework.

Principal Legislative and Institutional Measures

There are a number of well documented legislative and institutional measures that directly and indirectly impact on the employability and employment of people with disabilities in South Africa. (1) In fact, the South African Government has been hailed for passing and establishing a number of legislative and institutional measures enabled by the 1996 South African Constitution. The Constitution established the legal and moral obligations to correct past inequalities of the apartheid regime and the desire to restore the human dignity for all South Africans. Indeed, the human dignity and the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life, as well. (2) International legislation also has a role to play.

The principal enabling international legislation is in the form of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD). This Convention was ratified by South Africa on 30 November 2007. At the national level, The Constitution of the Republic of South African Act, 108 of 1996 formed the foundation for legislative and institutional transformation. Section 2 of the Constitution stipulates that the Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic; law and conduct inconsistent with is invalid. The principal subordinate legislation that impacts directly on people with disabilities is the Employment Equity Act, 55 of 1998. In terms of this Act people with disabilities are referred to as designated employees and the Public Service as a designated employer. (3) National institutions have to serve both, the designated employee and the designated employer.

The Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) is the principal umbrella institutional measure established in The Presidency. Its principal task being the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National Disability Strategy White Paper published in 1997. As the highest office on disability in South Africa its mandate is to oversee and direct the mainstreaming of disability into all sectors of Government in accordance with UNCRPD. This requires guidance, supportive and a facilitating role. The Disability Sector works closely with OSDP Contact with OSDP is organized through the South African Disability Alliance which is made up of various smaller disabled people's organizations (DPOs). In order to realize the policies of UNCRPD, the OSDP in partnership with the National Disability Machinery (NDM), a forum consisting inter-alia of representatives of business and traditional leadership, has produced a draft National Disability Policy Framework (NDPF) which has still to be approved by the South African Government, before publically available. (4)

Despite these legislative and institutional measures, public service departments (National and Provincial) are still challenged in terms of employability and employment of people with disabilities. In terms of the 1998 White Paper on Affirmative Action, a disability equity target of 2% by 2005 was set. However, this was not met. The target date has been shifted to 31 March 2010 by the South African Government. Concerns are arising that even this target may not be met. …

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