Blind war veterans’ association turns 100

Hundreds of blind and visually impaired people took part in the annual John and Esther Ellerman Long Cane Rally last October in Green Point.
The St Dunstan’s Association for South African War-Blinded veterans is celebrating its centenary.
The association has deep roots, originating in the UK in 1918. It became autonomous in South Africa in 1938. 
St Dunstan’s, now based in Pinelands, has helped blind veterans of both world wars and these days it helps Border War and Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans. 
The association’s work is funded through trusts it manages.
“We help blinded war veterans and their families through the St Dunstan’s Trust, the John and Esther Ellerman Memorial Trust helps fund orientation and mobility instructors throughout South Africa, and the Ian Fraser Memorial Bursary Fund is helping students who are visually impaired or blind gain access to tertiary education,” said CEO Gareth Morgan.
Zuko Mtwana, 45, a former SANDF member came into contact with St Dunstan’s after losing his sight in a car crash in 1997. 
The association paid for him to study to become a switchboard operator and helped him learn computer skills at the Cape Town Society for the Blind and the Institute for the Blind. 
“This organisation helps its members by rehabilitating them to fit in the community again,” said Mr Mtwana, who has run the switchboard at the SANDF Wynberg Military base for the past 19 years.
Former SADF member, Renier Heyns, 57, lost his sight and his right leg and arm when he was involved in a landmine explosion in Angola in 1979. 
“They give you enough space to do your own thing,” he said of St Dunstan’s, “and if you need assistance in any way, you can go to them and they will help you whether it is physical or emotional.” 
Mr Heyns has stayed in contact with St Dunstan’s since 1980 until now. He has been working as a switchboard operator since 1991.
The association has 33 current beneficiaries, including 18 war veterans and 15 widows.
It will hold a 4km long-cane rally, with more than 350 visually-impaired participants, in Muizenberg on October 13, to raise awareness of the use of white canes, guide dogs and of people who are visually impaired.