BLIND SA PRESIDENT NTSHAVHENI NETSHITUNI – STAFF ADDRESS
10 NOVEMBER 2020
GREETINGS TO THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT, AND THOSE WHO COULD NOT ATTEND; CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER; AND ALL STAFF OF BLIND SA
Standing before you showers me with the greatest honour one can ever imagine. I grew up in these buildings years ago as an employee and a shop steward. I interacted and befriended all of those who shared with me similar values of honesty; fairness; and respect – at that time, and I left without animosity with any of you. It is still me who ascended to the executive level, with greater amount of executive responsibilities.
When I started working with the executive, I still believed in myself and strove to infuse new approaches in the manner in which things were done. It is this belief which found expression in the executive committee, and the Executive nurtured this belief and embraced me as such. I had a team of executive which also truly believed in me, and ensured that we support each other to grow Blind SA to where it is today. No one would ever claim victory alone, for it was the collective which worked on the foundations laid by founders of Blind SA. It is this collective which, whether staff or a board member, we need to work towards, so that we can preserve our legacy with its obvious diversity.
COMPOSITION OF THE EXECUTIVE
The mandate of the General Assembly gave us the following members of the Executive for the coming term of office:
Mr. Christo de Klerk (vice president); Mr. Derick Greeff (treasurer); Mr. Eric Gama; Mr. Andre Vosloo; Mr. Tommie Lehmkuhl; Mrs Susan Bam; and Mr. Thakhani Masuka.
I am partly pleased to witness transformation in terms of race taking place, albeit quite slowly. However, it is the concern of us all that we seem to have lost the voice of women in this new committee. I trust the 2022 General Assembly shall correct this, for it is a loss in the agenda of transformation.
Blind SA had made many notable successes which we cannot afford to ignore. It has proven itself to be a reputable braille producer in the country and in the Southern African countries. It will remain the responsibility of this new Executive to strengthen relations with stakeholders like the DSAC in order to ensure a continued support for projects of Blind SA in braille. At some point, Blind SA produced the most pages of braille which still stands as a record-breaking performance to date. This record accentuated a need for more production of braille, and I believe that portrayed Blind SA in a very positive light in the public domain. The organisation had mounted itself at the summit of skills development in the disability sector, particularly for blind and partially sighted people. In the last three or so years, several projects to up-skill our members on entrepreneurship and braille were put together.
It is this staff we need to commend for every achievement that can be enumerated, and it is for this reason that we are witnessing growth and earning respect within the sector. Our staff component had remained stable, except for a few justifiable retrenchments that took place in 2019. This is a decision which the Executive still did not contemplate, even during the ruthlessness of COVID-19. Blind SA had endeavoured to make staff wellness its priority, and development and review of policies ensured that this is achieved.
The executive has always been cautious in the decisions they take. The role of the executive in taking decisions is to strike a balance between those decisions that will adversely affect staff, and those that are aimed at improving the wellbeing of staff. The upshot that comes with this responsibility is to maintain fairness. Most of us believe that a decision is fair if it favours me, and unfair if it does not. In the true sense, however, this is not the case. Fairness, particularly in the workplace, entails respect of rights of other colleagues. In the place of the executive, it means that when dispensing decisions, it must maintain “the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice”. Some decisions may come with some hardships to others, but hardships that can always be circumvented. It is the generality of decisions taken which we must focus on. Blind SA has decided to relocate to Alrode buildings, particularly because of major security and safety challenges we are faced with daily. I must say that it was not an easy decision, especially because it brings serious changes on the day-to-day planning of staff, and truly, possible extra expenses for staff to access the new workplace. This decision may not have gone down well with many of us, but it is important that we become cognisant that many blind and partially sighted people who frequent our offices are frightened when visiting our offices. An insecure place also poses challenges to our potential business and existing stakeholders.
Safety of all the work we engage on daily needs to be guaranteed, if not, we may also run a risk of losing the work that necessitates our existence. Blind SA shall endeavour to put systems in place to meet our staff halfway with respect to how to access our Alrode building. It will remain the responsibility of the executive to take a more conducive and worker-friendly decision, and, of course, striking a balance with resources we have at our disposal. When the system of performance management was introduced some years ago, it was evident that we were not ready for it, and some amount of resistance was experienced. Today we seem to be getting it right, and its success will surely place Blind SA as a top performer in the sector, something which will appeal to potential funders. However, I am positive that when we get to understand these and other changes, we will receive cooperation.
With the current systems in place, we expect more resource-generating projects to increase. It is our intention to increase stakeholders who will inject more income through our projects which are aimed at supporting our blind fellows. Blind SA had made an indelible mark across the disability spectrum in its advocacy work for the blind and partially sighted, and this has a potential of opening up more opportunities for the business of Blind SA.
I am grateful that through the recent appointment of the Development Officer, Blind SA will continue to strive for relevance to member organisations, something that will present new opportunities for the organisation in providing much needed services to the blind and partially sighted communities. The appointment of a bookkeeper will ensure that our financial systems are more streamlined and more accountability shall be derived. Blind SA shall collaborate with SABA in the operation of the Josie Wood Braille Museum, which is an exposure which puts Blind SA in the centre of preservation of braille, added to its reputation in the production of braille. Blind SA and SABA will surely earn respect through this ground-breaking initiative. The Bookshare project is also one opportunity we cannot let go. We will engage relevant departments seeking for a specific funding opportunity so that it can be sustained.
I urge all of us to be committed to Blind SA; that we must also pledge collegiality toward each other, for the good of Blind SA. It must be our project to ensure that Blind SA grows. This is an organisation for which we must take pride. The Executive will remain supportive to staff to ensure staff wellbeing. Executive will continue to put in place policies and systems which are meaningful to all of us, through consultative processes and openness.
It is my expectation also that you will reciprocate commitment and support to the Executive so that we can have concerted efforts going forward. I trust that through commitment by all of us, staff and governance alike, Blind SA is yet to live for many more years to come. We must be jealous with Blind SA and own it, because indeed, it is our own. Its success is our success; so is its failure – which is why I believe in the collective.
I THANK YOU