Falling Trees Make the Most Noise
The abidingmemory of June 16 is an indelible mark in the history of our country, andindeed the world. Ask a South African in Cape Town, Soweto or Polokwane about“race” and the answers would be rich, layered and heavily imbued with personaland political significance.
The painful legacyof racial discrimination is shared by all South Africans, and the remarkableemergence of our nation from decades of conflict, has left an awareness of theoppressive appropriation of the race paradigm etched on the national psyche.
Awareness of gender has alsogrown, with anti-sexist legislation enshrined in our new Constitution.
People with disabilities should also have the right to enjoy a decentlife, as normal and full as possible, free from discrimination. It lies at theheart of the right to human dignity and should be zealously guarded andforcefully protected, in accordance with the well-established principle thatall human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Juliet Mureriwa, an associate at the Open Society Initiative of SouthernAfrica and a legal expert for the Secretariat for the African Decade for Personswith Disabilities, writes, “Women and girls with disabilities in Africa facemultiple forms of discrimination and are at a greater risk of violence, abuse,neglect and exploitation. The socio-economic condition of women withdisabilities is aggravated by a lack of respect for women’s property rights,access to and ownership of productive resources, and cultural practices thatfavour patriarchal inheritance norms”.
When one firstcomprehends the reality that, for the most part, our society has been designedand constructed with only the interests of certain South Africans – thenon-disabled – in mind, overwhelming evidence of discrimination bursts forth: stairs,the printed word, buses and trains, inaccessible toilets and hostile orpatronizing attitudes.
MuziNkosi, chairperson of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), and an ardentactivist for the disability sector, cautions against society being found guiltyof “neglecting its vulnerable sector by conveniently opting for the out-datedand not workable medical model to disability, while the internationallysanctioned social model is in place”.
Against this background entities,particularly the private sector, that gravitate toward obviating the plight ofpersons with disabilities should be applauded. Debttec Recoveries have launchedtheir fully disability led, Project 1000, to place over 300 persons with disabilitiesat a major freight transport concern and are encouraging other businesses, suchas major banks, to follow suit.
“Disability is created by a disablist society, through the perpetuationof barriers to the participation of persons with impairments in social,economic and political threads”, said Allan Westoby,Debttec Recoveries’ Managing Member.
I wish everyonewould drop, once and for all, the word miracle from the lexicon of descriptionsfor South Africa's achievements. It reeks of low expectations. And it missesthe point. South Africans are not miracle people. We’re quite ordinary humanbeings with an extraordinary diversity of knowledge, wisdom and talent, whomake things work.
Know that people with disabilitiesare citizens “In South Africa Our Land”, and we are increasingly seekingpartnerships to turn the tide and emerge a triumphant people. We shall not goquietly! Through our collective efforts marginalisation, discrimination, economicdeprivation and cultural practicesthat favour patriarchal inheritance norms shall all fall!