India introduced new policies to make the country more accessible For people with disabilities. What will the current political changes in South Africa mean For South Africans with disabilities? Now is the perfect time to reflect.
A political change of guard: is it for the good of a few or not so good for us all? Well, it’s happened and we have to live with the consequences. However, we should not lose traction or momentum on the progress achieved by former president Jacob Zuma.
According to the presidency website, Zuma established the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, and the National Planning Commission, which produced the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 aimed at eradicating poverty, increasing employment and reducing inequality by 2030.
However, I’m more concerned with the continuation of the presidential working group, which has the ear of the president. It is a forum made up of 45 people, including prominent persons with disabilities, representing all the various forms of disabilities in South Africa.
The initial meeting was not very successful. I’m concerned about whether the cooperation between the disability sector and the president will continue.
Amba Salelkar wrote an article for an Indian publication, The News Minute, on February 6, 2018, entitled “Lip service to people with disabilities”, referring to the flagship scheme launched in 2014 by the Indian government, the Accessible India Campaign.
The scheme was tasked with the implementation of the 1995 Persons with Disabilities Act, whereby government establishments could seek requisitions from this fund to make their infrastructure accessible.
Ideally, every Ministry should have made their own funds available for making establishments accessible, as this was not only the concern of the Department of Disabilities.
Reading this made me super-excited for three reasons. First, the government of India is funding campaigns that make infrastructure accessible.
Two, there is a scheme to make it an Act; and three, they have a Department of Disabilities. I find it greatly encouraging that, in a highly populated country, such as India, legislative action is being taken regarding disability. It’s good news for India, but does it have much impact on South Africans?
This all came at a time where the air was filled with anticipation about the transition within our own government after the resignation of Jacob Zuma. Soon thereafter, the nation was reenergised by the inspiring state of the nation address (SONA) from President Cyril Ramaphosa, only to be taken aback subsequently by the budget 2018/19 speech by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
The emotional rollercoaster of the past few weeks gave me time to reflect on how far we have progressed, as a people, and as a country. I believe that, as a nation, we should be proud of our achievements and intensify our pursuit of disability as a human rights issue
Zuma was the keynote speaker at the National Disability Rights Summit in March 2016, saying: “Persons with disabilities have a proud history of human rights struggle for liberation in South Africa. Convening the inaugural meeting within human rights month is therefore significant.”
It was a special time to hold the Summit, Zuma said, for “it is very important to contextualise the approach to disability within a human rights context”. This is exactly what disability is and should be treated as such. It might work just as well here as it does in India.
Raven Benny is the chairperson of QASA. He has been a C5, 6 and 7 quadriplegic since 2000. He is married with five children, is mad about wheelchair rugby and represented South Africa in 2003 and 2005. He also plays for Maties. email: firstname.lastname@example.org