A leader for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Looks Ma­toto voices@city­press.co.za

Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu’s cam­paign to as­cend to the ANC’s top post has shown that she is the only one who is reach­ing out to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and is­sues af­fect­ing them.

Sisulu’s cam­paign mes­sage, “Con­nect­ing the dots and check­ing for the miss­ing ones, all on board leav­ing no one be­hind”, is one that is in­clu­sive of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

By reach­ing out to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties she gives cre­dence to the call for women lead­er­ship, as it shows that here is a mother who em­braces peo­ple who have been ne­glected for a long time and as a re­sult have been vic­tims of poverty and dis­ease.

The his­tory of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion has been char­ac­terised by dis­abil­ity ex­clu­sion and the view that they have no ca­pac­ity to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­duc­tion of po­lit­i­cal knowl­edge and ac­tiv­ity. Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are seen only as grant re­cip­i­ents.

It is in the process of strug­gling against apartheid that some met with dis­abil­ity, when we were wag­ing a war against an in­hu­mane sys­tem that was pro­duc­ing dis­abil­ity daily through bul­lets. Some were run over by SA De­fence Force Nyalas and lost limbs. Com­rade Oliver Tambo, the fa­ther of our strug­gle, ac­quired a dis­abil­ity in the process of the strug­gle.

The likes of Harry Gwala, Os­car Mpetha, Siphiwo Mthimkhulu and oth­ers never al­lowed their dis­abil­i­ties to re­strict their po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. They re­mained ac­tive and the en­emy never saw them as less of a threat. Some ac­quired dis­abil­i­ties from in­juries caused by par­cel bombs and grenades while in ex­ile. These are re­al­i­ties Sisulu knows up close and per­sonal, be­cause she was there through it all.

To peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, your time has come to be at the fore­front of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, through a pres­i­dent that will see you not as an­nexes or sec­ond thoughts. Many peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties re­main un­em­ployed while they live in a time where ev­ery­thing re­quires a ba­sic in­come.

Women with dis­abil­i­ties re­main ne­glected and are ex­cluded from many eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties women are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in. Peo­ple with al­binism are hunted like an­i­mals and bru­tally butchered. The tragic deaths of peo­ple with psy­choso­cial and in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties af­ter the ter­mi­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s con­tract with Life Esidi­meni re­mains a black spot on our free­dom, and Min­is­ter Sisulu is sen­si­tive to this tragedy and be­lieves that never again should such an event hap­pen in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety. Those who be­come dis­abled are likely to lose their jobs, and those born with dis­abil­i­ties are even more likely to be un­em­ployed, which in­creases their chances of be­ing un­able to se­cure food. Those who ex­pe­ri­ence poverty are also prone to pre­ventable dis­eases and mal­nu­tri­tion, which can re­sult in dis­abil­ity. Un­der the lead­er­ship of Sisulu, dis­abil­ity is­sues will be re­in­stated to the pres­i­dency – a cry from peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties that has long been ig­nored. We call on all of you who have lost hope in pol­i­tics, those who feel side­lined: come let us re­build. The ANC is our home, we can­not aban­don it be­cause it has been van­dalised. Here is a woman who says, yes, we have lost our ways and dis­ap­pointed you, we have made you an­gry and we have made you cry, we have made you lose all hope, we have seen how you are hurt, for we know your love for the ANC. Come let us build and cover lost ground, it is only you that can make things bet­ter. Come, my com­rade, this hour needs you still.

We call on you be­cause you know the move­ment best, you sac­ri­ficed your limb for our strug­gle, you lost your loved ones and con­tinue to carry scars that are a con­stant re­minder that we have come a long way, let us go back to our prom­ise and never leave one an­other again.

Our liv­ing stal­warts de­serve to see us re­cover from this pain, so that when they de­part, they de­part with joy know­ing that we will not bury the ANC that was built with blood sweat and tears. Never again must our stal­warts suf­fer ne­glect and go to the grave like Un­cle Kathy, with a painful heart. When we leave this world, what re­port do we bring to Tambo who kept the ANC united and made it stronger and big­ger dur­ing try­ing times in ex­ile?

We owe it to our­selves to change the way things are, let us bring back the com­rade­ship that we used to have. We would die for one an­other, and most of all, we would die for the ANC like many gal­lant fight­ers of our glo­ri­ous peo­ple’s army. These are the ex­pe­ri­ences that bind us to­gether, these are the pages of his­tory that lie on the floor. Ma­toto is the na­tional deputy chair for hu­man

rights at Dis­abled Peo­ple SA


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