Before 1996, three (3) national Non-Profit Organisations (NGOs) of persons with disabilities collaborated and engaged in initiatives aimed at promoting the employment and empowerment of persons with disabilities. These were the South African National Council for the Blind, the Development Fund for Disabled People (the current South African Disability Development Trust) and Disabled People South Africa.

Among their initial activities was shareholding in the BayGen Power Industries factory, a manufacturer of wind-up radios and torches for export. The factory also housed the Perkins Brailler, which had an integrated workforce including persons with visual impairment as well as other disabilities.

Another activity in the early days of the Employment Trust was the marketing of Viva Trust Scratch Cards. The three NGOs were inspired by ONCE, the National Organisation of the Spanish Blind which had been involved in lottery and investment activity. A key issue, however, was obtaining South African government approval for fundraising activities through marketing of the Viva Scratch Cards nationwide.

The government eventually granted permission on condition that participation and benefit be extended to include other national NGOs of persons with disabilities. In response to the government’s condition, in 1996 the three (3) initial organisations extended participation in their activities to four (4) other NGOs of people with disabilities and the Disability Employment Concerns (DEC) Trust was registered.

The DEC Trust came into being with two main objectives, generating income through business investments for its member organizations, and to employ disabled persons in its enterprises. The seven founding organisations were:

  • Deaf Federation of South Africa (DEAFSA)
  • Disabled People South Africa (DPSA)
  • Epilepsy South Africa (Epilepsy SA)
  • National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD)
  • South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH)
  • South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB)
  • South African Disability Development Trust (SADDT)

With grant funding received from the Liberty Life Foundation to cover start-up costs, DEC was able to appoint a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with effect from 1st October 2000. In the following year (2001), DEC became one of the investors in the Biovac Consortium, an investment that was exited in 2020 – 19 years later.

In 2013 DPSA withdrew from DEC Trust to pursue investment opportunities in its own right.

In 2003 DEC’s name was changed from Disability Employment Concerns Trust to Disability Empowerment Concerns Trust, coinciding with the enactment of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) legislation. The name change, then and today, better reflects the two-pronged mission of the DEC Group, which is to visibly and measurably empower persons with disabilities and contribute to the sustainability of services provided by the six (6) current beneficiary organisations.

The DEC Investment Holding Company (Pty) Ltd, which manages the investments of the DEC Trust, is wholly owned by the Trust. The DEC Trustees set the company’s policies and appoint the Board of Directors. Of the total of 7 Directors, 4 are Black people; 5 are Women; and 6 are Persons with Disabilities

In 2018/2019 DEC Trustees received a number of notifications from the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Commission to the effect that some of the DEC Trust investments did not fully comply with the B-BBEE codes, specifically in respect of BEE Ownership Requirements.

As a result, the DEC Trust Trustees at the time resolved to implement a major restructuring intervention which included a sale of most investments acquired as a result of DEC’s participation in B-BBEE opportunities.

A company in which all shareholders are persons with disabilities, DEmpower Limited was established in 2019 and it purchased the investments from DEC Group with effect from 2nd March 2020.

A limited number of investments were retained in the DEC Group.


DEC Trust has had the privilege of being nominated as a beneficiary in other Trusts :

The sole beneficiary of the ApexHi Properties Limited BEE Trus

A beneficiary of the Letsema Sizwe Broad-Based Community Trust in Murray and Roberts Limited for a period of 5 years, during which DEC’s beneficiary organisations accessed funds to implement projects that benefitted South Africans with disabilities at grassroots level

A beneficiary of the Nedbank Eyethu Corporate Scheme Trust and freely held 125,415 shares in the Nedbank Group Limited, one of the big four banking groups in South Africa

A 4% beneficiary of the Trust of the Lion Consortium and held an effective 3,66% of the equity in Telkom Limited