Leadership in the disability sector is alive and kicking!
I want to let you know about some events that have transpired since the last issue of Rolling went out. The Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP), really got our knickers in a knot and, I can assure you, that is a mild way of putting it. Ever since I can remember, International Day for Persons with Disabilities is celebrated worldwide on December 3rd. Every year the OSDP hosts a national function to celebrate Government’s achievements in the disability sector. We were advised that the function would go ahead as usual on the third, and then we were advised that it had been moved to the 11th. How do you move an International Day? Would they ever consider moving Freedom day? Women’s day? Christmas Day? But, of course, our Office in the President’s Office decided to move our day. There were many conflicting stories as to why, none of them relevant. But every cloud has a silver lining.
The date change resulted in the South African Disability Alliance (SADA), sharpening its claws and everyone boycotted the celebrations. All twelve member organisations celebrated International Day for Disabled Persons on the third, and steadfastly stayed away from the OSDP’s celebrations on the 11th. QASA is very proud to be a member of SADA. This episode has galvanised a long overdue unity of the members.
As a result of the boycott we finally had our first meeting with the Honourable Minister in the office of the Presidency, Minister Manto Tshabalala. She listened gracefully and our first engagement turned out to be rather positive. I have met with her again since, and feel positive about her commitment to disability. I hope I don’t have to swallow my words.
The whole saga has made me realise that we are clearly a minority group that gets compromised again and again. We must take a stand.
This is an election year. Read the manifestos of all the parties before you vote, look to see whether they have candidates with disabilities on the candidate list and, should you find any, let’s ask them what they intend doing for people with disabilities in South Africa if they are elected. Bar a few, the performance of many of the present Ministers in parliament leaves much to be desired.
People with disabilities represent 10% of the South African population. We, together with our families and friends, have the potential to exert huge influence through our vote, and must not waste this opportunity. Can you imagine if there was a political party: CODE (Congress of Disabled People), and they got all of the votes of the disability sector, plus family and friends? CODE would have a chance of being the official opposition!! Are we united enough to give this a try? Why not?
To end off on a positive note, much progress is being made in negotiating with the twelve cities on the Bus Rapid Transit programme which will result in an integrated and accessible public transport structure in these cities. Furthermore, following recent engagements with Gautrain, I can assure you that this unique transport facility will be absolutely accessible, matching the best in the world. So they promise….