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Batho Pele Principles

“Nothing about us without us”

By: Emmaculate Cindi

The 3rd of November to 3rd December marks disability month as declared by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 47/3 which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of disability issues and the rights of people living with disability.

Disability is defined as illnesses that may be mental, physical or combination of both which affects a person’s life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a persons’ life.

 

In the 23 years since the advent of democracy, we have seen numerous gains for people living with disability such as; been given priority when doing business with government, professional appointments within government departments and being assisted with the monthly disability grant from the state.

The observance of International Day of People living with Disability coincides with Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings, where 143 psychiatric patients died after they were forcibly removed from Gauteng Life Esidimeni homes and sent to ill equipped NGOs to deinstitutionalize patients into the communities and save money for the Gauteng Department of Health.

Even though government has good policies in place to care and humanize those living with disabilities, Esidimeni tragedy is one of examples that more awareness is still needed to those implementing policies ranking from senior government officials, community members and families of the affected to learn more on how to care for them.

Speaking on behalf of the Premier, MEC for Education Mr Ishmael Kgetjepe addressed a hall full to capacity with people living with disability at SJ Van der Merwe High School in Lebowakgomo. He told the audience that the government has adopted the slogan “nothing about us without us” in its dealings with disability issues. The slogan means that people living with disability are full members of the community and have equal rights to determine their own future. “No one has the right to think on behalf of people living with disabilities and taking important decisions affecting them without involving them” Said the MEC

A 42-year-old Mr Lethabo Lekala is one of the people who attended the annual observance of people living with disability. A father of four ranging between the ages of 22 and 28 from Ga-Mphahlele Village outside Polokwane, Mr Lekala is still struggling to find employment because he did not complete matric. “During my school years, access to school facilities catering for people living with my disability were not available”. He explained.

The shortage of a school with relevant facilities to cater for Lethabos’ disability lead to him dropping out when he was doing form two (grade 9). He was born without both legs and uses a wheelchair which makes it difficult to get into taxis to move from his village to seek work in nearby towns. Lethabo is one disabled persons who has fallen through the cracks because their needs are not fully catered for.

Lepelle Nkumpi Municipality Mayor, Cllr Nakedi Sibanda acknowledged that government buildings are not user friendly for people living with disabilities and as a Municipality they are working on improving the situation to allow free movement to those that are disadvantaged by infrastructure.

Among those in attendance to lend his support was an accomplished musician and now an advocate; Steve Kekana lost his eye sight at the age of five. He attended a school for the blind in Pietersburg now known as Polokwane. Mr Kekana was born and raised in Zebediela.