By TOTO TSARNEBA
Leaders from various organisations for people living with disabilities met with the Makana Municipality Special Unit Programme and community members at Noluthando Hall on July 22 to establish the Makana Disability Forum (MDF), a new platform that advocates for the rights and inclusion of persons living with disabilities.
Vukile Wali, who runs the Makana Municipality Special Unit Programme, organised the launch to promote inclusion in the Makana Municipality. “I want to make sure that we have a structure that represents various formations of disabled people from all corners of our municipality”, he said.
Wali said there were many opportunities for people with disabilities in the municipality, but they are not used. That is why the MDF is a vital umbrella forum that includes all the other organisations for people living with a disability.
About 40 people living with disabilities from as far as Alicedale and Riebeek East were among the attendees. They came to support this initiative which advocates for their rights and inclusion in the public sector.
The newly formed MDF serves as a bridge between the municipality and Makhandans living with disabilities and includes organisations like the MRC, APD, and Upliving Makhanda. Also at the launch were stakeholders such as the Department of Basic Education, the South African Police Service, the Department of Social Development, and the South African Library of the Blind.
MDF chairperson Lubabalo Soxujwa said the Forum would capacitate people living with disabilities, equip them with the information they need to get by and serve as a “meeting place” for engagement, exchange and learning.
MDF deputy chairperson Siyabonga Dondashe said the Forum would make the public aware that people living with disability can be independent when given opportunities and the necessary support.
Siyabonga said people living with disabilities should have RDP houses and wanted to know the municipality’s plans for making that a reality.
A unified voice for people living with disabilities
According to the Employment Equity Act of 1998, people with disabilities should comprise at least two per cent of the workforce. Vukile Wali said the Forum would hold the municipality and businesses accountable if they breached the law.
Wali also said there was a need for a councillor for people living with disability.
The MDF will serve as a unified representative voice of people living with disabilities In Makhanda to pursue activities like:
- Disability research and information dissemination.
- Strengthening the participation of youth with disabilities in national and regional structures and programmes
- Facilitating the participation of children with disabilities in different activities such as sports and recreation.
- Facilitating the participation of women with disabilities in the workforce and the Sustainable Development Agendas.
- Promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in mainstream development agencies.
Rights and responsibilities for people living with disabilities
MDF deputy secretary Chris Dyokomba said people with disabilities had the same fundamental rights as their fellow citizens.
People with disabilities have the right to medical, psychological and functional treatment, including prosthetic and medical and social rehabilitation, education, vocational training and counselling, placement services and other services which will enable them to develop their capabilities and skills to the maximum and will hasten the processes of their social integration or reintegration.
People with disabilities have the right to economic and social security and a decent level of living. They have the right, according to their capabilities, to secure and retain employment or to engage in a useful, productive and remunerative occupation and to join trade unions. Disabled persons are entitled to have their unique needs considered at all economic and social planning stages.
Nothing for us without us
Gibson Ncipha, from the Aliesdale Disability Committee, said he was “happy to see that we do matter, and we are recognised in our communities”.
Ncipha said people living with disabilities should be involved in matters that affect them. In unison, the other attendees agreed with Ncipha by saying, “Nothing for us without Us”.
Vuyokazi Madongana from the South African Library for the Blind said he believed blind people were entitled to information like all other citizens. “There are issues blind people also deal with which they can share to help each other,” she said.
“We encourage blind people who are interested in writing and want to be published to visit our Library for the necessary support,” she added.