National Disability Rights Summit: Disabled people’s rights a focal issue: Zuma
Pretoria – Human rights was an important issue, especially for persons with disabilities, South African President Jacob Zuma said during the opening ceremony at the National Disability Rights Summit in Pretoria on Thursday.
It was for this reason that Zuma said it was deemed important to hold the inaugural National Disability Rights Summit during March which is marked as Human Rights month.
Zuma, in his opening lines, said: “Persons with disabilities have a proud history of human rights struggle for liberation in South Africa. Convening the inaugural meeting within human rights month is therefore significant.”
It was a special time to hold the Summit, Zuma said, for “it is very important to contextualise the approach to disability within a human rights context”.
Addressing delegates, he added that it was “befitting that we meet three months almost to the day after Cabinet approved the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on December 9, 2015”.
He acknowledged the United Nations’ “generous contribution” to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in South Africa through the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Multi-Party Fund.
Tracing the country’s disability rights journey to this moment, Zuma told delegates how in 1994, a decision was made by the new democratic government to mainstream disability rights as a means to address the “discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion” that persons with disabilities experienced under apartheid.
This, he said, could be achieved through “all legislation, policies and programmes”.
He added that he would chair the inaugural Presidential Disability Working Group, which he said would play a role in “promoting the mission of building a united non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society”.
Speaking to the challenges persons with disabilities encounter daily, Zuma said: “We also need to work harder together to remove stereotypes and superstition that has proven to be detrimental to persons with disabilities.”
He said he was encouraged that the suspects who murdered Thandazile Mpunza, a young woman with albinism, for her body parts had been brought to book.
This, Zuma said, was a good example that demonstrated that the country’s “justice system works effectively and the communities and courts will not tolerate human rights violations against persons with disabilities”.
Persons with disabilities were “entitled to full protection by the law and by our law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Zuma acknowledged the need to ensure that access to basic education be provided to children with disabilities.
The Department of Transport, he said, was also looking into a universally designed public transport system that would provide access and ensure increased mobility and independence.
He added that government’s vision was to ensure that by 2021 all children with disabilities would be in school. No one would be excluded and they would receive the support they needed.
He noted that progress was being made, with 83 percent of children with disabilities who were aged five, and 93 percent of children and youth aged seven to 15 years, were in educational institutions.
He added that regarding higher education, in 2014, over 6,850 students with disabilities were enrolled at higher education institutions, and over 2 800 were enrolled at TVET colleges.
He said work was being done to ensure Deaf South Africans were able to access all information and communication through South African Sign Language and cabinet was looking at a government braille printing system to provide information to the blind.
He also addressed the question some delegates had about moving the office for persons with disabilities from the Department of Social Development back to the President’s Office.
This, he said, would be an issue that needed to be discussed as the reason why the office was initially relocated to the Department of Social Development was so the department could implement the white paper as it had the resources to do so. He further said the role of the President’s Office was to supervise this process, however, he would take into account reasons why the office should be relocated to the President’s Office and make a decision.
Zuma concluded the opening ceremony: “Let us focus our deliberations, keeping in mind the need to change the lives of children, women, young persons and older persons with disabilities living in poverty in deep rural communities.”
African News Agency | View Source