No-show leaves deputy minister with red face

Namhla Tshisela and Mabuku Seyaka

Namhla Tshisela and Mabuku Seyaka

Deputy Minister of Social Development Jean Swanson-Jacobs waited in vain and left an event without delivering her speech because of poor attendance and organisation.

Swanson-Jacobs was to be the guest speaker at a Disability Family Fun Day at Florida Lake on the West Rand on Tuesday.

The event was meant to highlight the plight of people with disabilities.

"I am disappointed. The day was a waste. It would have been great if people had attended," said Swanson-Jacobs.

Swanson-Jacobs said she was disheartened that the venue was not easily accessible to the physically handicapped.

"The venue does not have wheelchair ramps. I would have thought that these things were considered during the planning," the minister said.

She said a "makeshift ramp" was created using planks to enter the dining area.

"I am not sure with whom the fault lies but my department was not involved in the planning of the event," said Swanson-Jacobs.

By 2pm, only a few of the 3000 people expected had arrived for the event. It was scheduled to have started at 9am.

The park was instead filled by organising staff, security personnel and police officers.

Ernest Tsipa of the Disabled People South Africa said he would not have been able to deliver his speech because the stage was not accessible to those using wheelchairs.

"Organisers must ensure that venues for events are accessible to everyone, including the disabled," said Tsipa.

Thabani Khanyile of Ingwe Communications blamed poor marketing for the poor attendance. He said the park had been chosen for the event because of its "accessibility, safety and comfort".

He said the organisers could not be blamed for people arriving late.