As part of its unfolding tourism month celebrations, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) hosted familiarization trips by involving ‘members of the fourth estate’ and the Sukumani Mpumalanga Association for the Blind to be part of the three-day domestic tourism event.
The purpose of the familiarization trips was to identify tourism spots which in the past were ignored or not considered by the locals as ‘hot or happening’ in the province.
The province of Mpumalanga which loosely translated means ‘where the sun rises’ is synonymous with international tourists owing to its world class destinations, yet according to National Department of Tourism is still within the bracket of six least visited provinces in the country.
Yes, this may sound awkward but its’ true!
Not known to rest on their laurels, the agency and other sectors involved the Sukumani Association to be part of the celebrations and promote Blind/Disabled Tourism to conscientious the volume of disabled and blind tourists in the province.
Domestic tourism contributes close to R5, 2billion to the economy of the country and also creates thousands of jobs which makes it the biggest employer after other industries.
Grinning from ear to mouth, the effervescent Nokuthula Dladla whose blind condition has not by a bit deterred her to achieve her dreams says being part of the celebrations was a sign that the MTPA and others were considering their contribution into the wealth of the economy.
Owing to chilly weather and medley rains, Noks as we aptly called her: smartly dressed and smelling too good –which made some of my female colleagues jealous- also enjoyed the attention as she was being snapped by large flashes of cameras. And yes, she did realise that figuratively speaking!
“I feel good although the weather is wet, however that would not disappoint us to do what we’re here for that is to share the successes and problems of our organization,” she says.
Started in 2008 but began operating legally in 2009, the Sukumani Association for the Blind in Mpumalanga is an NGO whose mandate is to aid the less fortunate, particularly the blind and disabled.
Sukumani is a Nguni word meaning stand-up is based in the location called Piennaar, Mpumalanga, and manufactures arts and culture goods to generate income. It is managed by Noks, Doris Mngwenya and John Masinga, who were part of the celebrations.
“Since its establishment we have had good rapport with various stakeholders suffice to mention the local government involvement. We’ve had series of meetings to ask for divine intervention but until this day no luck has comeforth,” pointed out Noks.
“We hope with your reporting they will come to their senses and aid us. We have nothing much to boast about because the same place we’re staying at, must be paid for. Now imagine that?” she asked vehemently.
Asked, what kind of donations or help they seek, she said everything.
“Our plea since this is Tourism Month; we hope tourists and other locals would be able to visit our establishment and purchase the products we produce. This would help in augmenting our minimum income and possibly create a better life for all of us, “she said.
Posed to what tourism means to her, and what benefits would be derived as a results of their organization being part of tourism events in the province, the no-nonsense Noks said, it means local and international tourists bring their hard earned money into the province which we must benefit from, and on behalf of our organization we simply ask for awareness on products we produce.
Publicity, please, she exclaimed!!
Chairperson of the MTPA board Jerri Ngomane, says the blind and the disabled in this province should be given the priority as much as others.
“We as the board, feel honoured to be in the presence of the less fortunate so as to understand their frustrations and what kind of help we, as the MTPA could offer. They play a very significant role in shaping the thinking and thoughts of South Africans thus must be heard and seen,” he attested.
This form of engaging with them (Sukumani Association) would help us in implementing special projects earmarked towards the blind/disabled within the agencies satellite information desks throughout the province, says Ngomane.