Here we are I the first term of our new government.  The dust has settled and the elections are wrapped up. Our votes were turned into seats, and these seats are now occupied with the members of the new parliament.

Our public representatives are there in the benches, some with renewed vigour and motivation for the next term in office. Others are there with a new mandate to carry out their duties in portfolios or ministries like education, human settlements, finance, safety, sport, health and economic development. Many of the new members of parliament are older members of their parties that received a new mandate. This mandate should not be taken for granted.

Our own ministry, and I refer to the previous ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, has been dissolved into the Presidency. In this very column have I wrote in 2010 (Rolling Inspiration September / October 2010; Upfront Column; page 5) about how it seems that our government is unsure about whose responsibility it is to see to the needs of people with disabilities.

Also that all the other ministries should assist in the task. And that we need our very own ministry. This was sadly not the best solution as our voice was sometimes lost in the louder shouts from women and children.

Now that we have no more a specific ministry for people with disabilities, is it our responsibility to use the opportunity to ensure integration as we move forward. We have to become vigilant and claim our rights on an equal basis with everyone else in our communities. I do take into consideration that this is more difficult to do for people living with disabilities. But we have to ensure those around us knows that we expect nothing less than exactly the same treatment.  One day do I believe will the quest for a dedicated single ministry for us be fulfilled? However for now do we have this new term and its’ candidates.

It is highly commendable to note that we as a country have moved to having a Minister in the National Assembly that is a person with a disability as well as two Deputy Ministers. I refer to the Honorable minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Advocate Tshililo Michael Masutha and Honorable Henrietta Bogopane - Zulu, Deputy Minister of Department Social Development and Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe – Military Veterans

All have worked very diligently to achieve this honour to serve their country despite of their disabilities. And they can show that people with disabilities are competent enough to contribute equally to society as anyone else.

They should remain there and improve whatever area or portfolio that they are deployed to. There will even be an opportunity for a conciliatory tone to prevail as political rivals have to work together like the ruling party and the opposition. Should have strong focus on empowering through facilitation of the inclusion of disabled people and their families members and communities in all development and decision making processes.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has encouraged them, when he was swearing them in, to serve with integrity.  It is up to them now to use this platform to ensure that they serve the needs of the people that they represent. To ensure that each and every project and program they deliver contains more emphasis on equal opportunities and creates an enabling environment by removing barriers.

In this way they will open the door for many aspiring people with disabilities to enter the political arena. To not only fill seats but to prove the worth of having competent people with disabilities included in each and every sector of society to both the other parties in the House as well as the public. And it is important for everyone to look beyond the indifferences of opinions and alliances as they focus on delivering the services to all the people of South Africa.

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