It’s a harsh fact of life that disabling injuries don’t discriminate. They happen to people in all walks of life, and on both sides of the law, every day.
Vusi Ndimendi is a 44 year-old paraplegic and works for the Department of Correctional Services at the Westville prison in Kwazulu Natal. His official title is Regional Coordinator of Disability and his role in the province and the department is to manage disability in the workplace. This only applies to DCS staff and officials, and excludes prison inmates. Disabled prisoners are handled by another section of the department.
An able-bodied Vusi joined the Department in 1985. Nine years later while monitoring probationers and parolees, he and a colleague were ambushed and robbed of their firearms. Vusi got shot and suffered a T-section spinal cord injury, and was left a paraplegic. Soon after recovery and rehab, he began to pursue disability issues. His interest and involvement led the Department to adopt a disability policy and set up a ‘disability desk’ at Westville prison, catering to the needs of disabled DCS staff.
In addition, Vusi has been tasked with integrating disability awareness and concomitant issues into all structures of the department.
Of the 35,002 Department of Correctional Services members throughout the country, 128 are disabled according to statistics from March 2006. Currently, DCS KZN has 32 disabled members, which include two wheelchair users and a few people using crutches. Most of the members have polio-related disabilities.
Vusi is serving his second year as chairperson of the Quadriplegic Association of Kwazulu (QAK), and therefore sits on the management board of the QuadPara Association of South Africa. His committee meets on the 3rd Thursday of every month at the Ashley Village, 10 km from Westville.