Disabled must pay for repairs to wheelchairs
THE Gauteng health department is failing to pay for repairs to wheelchairs.
Those wheelchair-bound are faced with the challenge of paying for the repairs because the department has not paid service providers contracted to do the work required. Two of these service providers said they were owed nearly R500000 in total.
Paralysed Mojalefa Motsepe, 38, is one of the destitute, disabled people who constantly keeps his eye on the battery power gauge of his wheelchair, dreading that the red light will start flashing.
"My wheelchair is my life," he said. "Without it I feel like I'm under house arrest because I can't go outside my room. I bash against the walls and struggle on inclines because I can only use one arm."
Motsepe is one of 50 wheelchair-bound residents at StGiles Home for the Physically Disabled in Kensington, Johannesburg.
About 14 StGiles residents urgently need repairs to their wheelchairs. Their R1200 disability grant covers only their accommodation needs.
StGiles social support officer Di Hasapi said her office is piling up with quotes they can't afford. "To fit two new batteries costs R2000."
Nonpayment by the department has crippled companies such as Siyalinda Ngconjana's Wheel-chair Repair Company, which worked from the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital workshop.
Ngconjana claims he is owed R91000 for work done from July last year. He shut the workshop down in May after many battles with the department.
"I couldn't take it. There were lots of people coming to us wanting help but we did not have spares or money," he said. "I had kids to think about. I ended up working as a taxi driver just to make ends meet."
Rodney Outram, whose company, CE Mobility is also contracted by the department to fix wheelchairs, was owed just over R1-million a few months ago. The department has paid off more than half and the company is now owed about R400000.
"I now only repair wheelchairs whose invoices have been approved by the government," Outram said.
Gauteng health spokesman Simon Zwane said: "The department has made progress in ensuring that all companies who rendered services are paid."
He said the contracts of 11 workshops that repair wheelchairs would be renewed "so they can resume rendering services soonest".