Call for recognition of sign language

KWAZULU–Natal MEC for Social Development Nonhlanhla Khoza has called on community members to adopt sign language as an important means of communication in order to accommodate those who are deaf and dumb.

MEC Khoza‘s plea comes after she visited Jika Joe Informal Settlement together with Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo. The visit comes after the death of Snethemba Dlamini, a deaf 13-year-old school girl who was found lying on the banks of Dorpsruit river at the beginning of this month.  

The aim of the visit was to offer counselling services to community members after this gruesome discovery that left many shocked, and to also find out about the challenges that are faced by the community. It is alleged that the former Open Gate School pupil was first raped, killed and thereafter left half naked along the Dorpspruit river. Two men have already been arrested in connection with the murder.

Apart from this recent incident, the area which according to statistics from Msunduzi municipality has more than 400 households is gripped by various social ills which include a high rate of teenage pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and electricity theft. 

Addressing community members at a community gathering held at St John of Ark Roman Catholic Church, Khoza said: “As a department we are shocked by this brutal death of such a young life. Hence, we are advocating for the recognition of sign language as an important language across all sectors. It is possible that this child had been abused repeatedly but couldn’t even convey her frustrations because she could not speak. Had she and (those around her) understood sign language, she could have reported the matter in good time”.

Khoza further said: “We are not only here to offer counselling services to the community, but we also want to plead with them to come and join forces with various departments in order to curb the scourge of crime. Fighting against crime is a collective responsibility, and not a one man show. I’m glad that the mayor is also here, as we would also like to plead for the installation of high mast street lights in this area.” Khoza also encouraged community members to make use of war rooms in order to speak about issues that are affecting them.

While crime remains a continuous threat to the community, community member Vuyiswa Mlozama raised concerns that often their criminal cases are not taken seriously by police from Loop Street Police Station. “We don’t know where the problem is, but whenever we mention that we are from Jika Joe Informal Settlements, the case is immediately dismissed. We don’t know who to trust if people who are supposed to be protecting us are the same people who reject us,” ended Mlozama.

City Mayor Councillor Themba Njilo said although the family of the deceased was not present, after this incident it was befitting for the municipality to visit residents and offer support. He said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of such a young life. We urge community members to report such incidents while there is still time.  We need to work together in order to fight against crime.One life lost is one too many.” Njilo also gave a stern warning about electricity theft which is very rife in the area.