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Transformational leadership as a tool to effectively implement the legislation governing disability in the workplace: the case of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.

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The South African government has enacted various labour laws intended to transform the country to empower previously underprivileged South Africans to enjoy equal access and fair treatment in the workplace. This legislation includes provisions aimed at promoting respect for the human rights for persons with disabilities and to guarantee their protection afforded by the Constitution. The challenge, however, lies with implementation of the legislation and disability policies. While there has been a principled undertaking, confirmed at least on paper in government policy and legislation, to include persons with disabilities in mainstream society as autonomous and full members with dignity and opportunities, such opportunities remain restricted, and human ability and dignity are stifled thereby compromised. In terms of the Disability Code and labour legislation, the duty to manage execution of the Code and disability related legislation is the responsibility of workplace leaders, ie the senior management of the organisation. It follows that failure to implement disability related laws by senior management means that persons with disabilities will remain excluded in the workplace. This study explored the role of transformational leadership in the implementation of disability law in the workplace particularly in the public sector. It further examined the role of transformational leadership on disability inclusion and equality in the Ethekwini Municipality (the Municipality), Durban, South Africa. Additionally, the study investigated obstacles hindering effective implementation of disability law in the Municipality. The study is multidisciplinary in that it incorporates leadership (management studies) and the law. In this context, the study is empirical in nature based on qualitative interviews with employees with disabilities and senior management (leaders) of the Municipality responsible for developing strategies and implementation of disability related legislation, to ascertain their perspective on transformational leadership and its impact on disability inclusion in the workplace. The assertion is that it is the role of the workplace leaders to guarantee effective implementation of disability laws in the workplace. Consequently, the study explored obstacles faced by Municipal leaders towards effective implementation of disability laws. Furthermore, the study utilised doctrinal (legal) research by examining international and domestic instruments on disability. The study applied a socio-legal approach to analyse the law and to understand the social impact through the interviews conducted with leaders and employees with disabilities. Thus, the socio-legal approach complements both the doctrinal and the empirical research methodologies. Among the findings of the study is that there is a lack of leadership commitment and political will to include persons with disabilities in the Municipality. Additionally, conflicting understandings of the concept of disability and the lack of disability policies and strategies were found to be among the hindrances to disability inclusion and equality in the Municipality. There is a stigma attached to persons with disabilities and the working environment is not conducive for them. Disability is not a priority issue, it is merely considered for compliance with relevant laws and targets and not to ensure their full inclusion in the Municipality. Notably, this study found that transformational leadership is an important leadership approach to adopt to include and promote full participation of persons with disabilities in the workplace and to ensure an inclusive workplace culture. The study recommends transformational leadership models that can be utilised by the Municipality to change the status quo and to transform an exclusionary workplace environment to the one that promotes inclusion of and full participation by persons with disabilities in all occupational levels in the Municipality.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.