Reader Profile - Disability Chamber
The Disability Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) recently opened its first branch in Gauteng. The chamber's main objective is to assist companies owned by people with disability to for economic independence and the ability to sustain themselves.
Rolling Inspiration magazine spoke to the Chamber's President, Muzi Nkosi, to find out more about his journey and his hopes for the organisation.
Back to the beginning
I got involved in disability politics as a youngster in 1981 when I became disabled in Standard 9. After being hospitalised for a year and a half I decided to go back to school and obtain my matric certificate. I went back to my mainstream school and it was very hard. It was difficult to access the classrooms but this trying time in my life taught me patience and perseverance - qualities that are very vital in the competitive business world. I then went on to Wits University where I completed my BA. Education degree and later I even obtained my Honours. At that time I was living in the township of Soweto and as young people, we were fighting the apartheid government.
Life for black disabled people during the time of apartheid was extremely difficult as we encountered double discrimination. Not only was I discriminated against through apartheid as a black person, but I was also discriminated against because of my wheelchair. Back then you couldn't access employment as a disabled person so we were discriminated against socially, politically and economically.
As disabled people, we came together and we decided to form an organisation which would fight for, and champion the rights of disabled people. And that became the Disabled People South Africa (DPSA).
However, the political, social and economic winds of change are blowing in South Africa and people with disabilities are once again being marginalised and discriminated against. We saw that companies owned by people with disabilities find it increasingly difficult to operate in isolation and therefore to ensure survival, the establishment of the DCCI aim to assist companies owned by people with disability to strive for economic sustainability.
In my personal life I feel that I have had to jump all the hurdles and overcame many obstacles so I want my business to be so successful that I will be able to sustain a good lifestyle. The cost of living for a disabled person is very high. For example, my wheelchair retails for around R40 000. It is also very important to me to show the community that I can be a successful entrepeneur - despite being mobily impaired.
The Chamber plans to play a significant role in building capacity, teaching marketing, mentoring, supporting and advocating for the socio-economic development of companies owned by people with disabilities in general and also in contributing to national economic objectives. It also embraces a partnership approach to challenges in the business environment and in the national economy and will protect the interests of a person with a disability's business, at a national, provincial local and regional level.
The DCCI aims to develop a membership comprising of approximately 500 small, medium and large enterprises across the country within the disability sector.
Companies should comprise of more than 50 people and large enterprises that are already doing well within the economic industry. Members have to pay a membership fee and because membership is regarded as a business expense, it is therefore tax deductible.
We would like to encourage companies owned by people with disabilities to join the Chamber, to strengthen the economic voice of the disabled community, as we believe that "unity is strength" and our collective voice will carry more weight and will be heard. "We also believe that individual businesses should not allow themselves to be left out of this involvement and should not deprive themselves of the advantages to be gained in this strong venture."