President commits to advance cause of disabled people

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed government to joining the disability sector of South Africa on a journey towards the full empowerment of people with disabilities.

The President gave this commitment at the end of a meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Disability in Pretoria on Tuesday.

This was the first Presidential Working Group to meet following the State of the Nation Address which the President delivered to a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday, 7 February.

“In addition, the President committed government departments to the inclusion of people with disabilities within their respective mandates and called for similar commitment on the part of the private sector,” said the Presidency in a statement.

President Ramaphosa was joined at the meeting by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha, Social Development, Deputy Minister Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu and Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister Chana Pilane-Majake.

Several disability sector organisations attended Tuesday’s meeting among them were Action in Autism, Epilepsy South Africa, the Association of Hearing Loss Accessibility and Development; Disability Workshop Development Enterprise; Deaf Federation of South Africa; Africa Disability Alliance; the Black Management Forum; the Albinism Society of South Africa; the Paralympic Committee; Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) South Africa; Down Syndrome South Africa and Disabled People South Africa.

Disability sector delegates highlighted five overarching goals for the attention and action of the Presidential Working Group on Disability. These are:

  • Location of government’s Office of Disability within the Presidency as part of the reconfiguration of government;
  • The adoption of South African Sign Language as the 12th official language;
  • The domestication of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with the effect that all legislation and the whole of government should mainstream disability;
  • The resourcing, from the fiscus and other sources, of programmes that support people with disabilities; and
  • Support for vulnerable groups and strengthening of the criminal justice system to end victimisation of people with disability.

President Ramaphosa commended the sector on the clarity of depth of the various concerns and proposals tabled at the Working Group.

Among issues raised were local production of assistive devices for people with disabilities; the development of early childhood development facilities for children living with disability, and the need for change in societal attitudes to people with albinism and the ending of violence – including murder – against people with albinism.

Concluding the meeting, President Ramaphosa said the Working Group would process the proposals made through a number of technical committees that would be focused on securing implementation of the proposed actions. –