Honourable Premier DD Mabuza addresses the Mpumalanga Premier’s Disability Achiever Awards for 2011, Msukaligwa Municipality

15 March 2012

Thank you Programme Director for the opportunity
Members of the Executive Council present here today
Executive Mayors and Councillors who are within our midst
The Director-General of the Province
Pastor Mahlangu
Representatives of the Disabled People’s Organisations
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and gentlemen 

A blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova, as cited by Todaro, has this to say:

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone; No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.”

There are many South Africans that share the same sentiments as this woman from Moldova.

Fortunately, the ruling Party is a caring organisation.

It is a people-centred organisation that respects the rights of all South Africans irrespective of colour, gender or creed.

Throughout its history of struggle, the organisation has and still is, demonstrating its unwavering commitment towards defending and advancing these rights of the people, particularly the poor and vulnerable individuals, of whom, the majority are the Youth, Women and People with disabilities

Our Constitution, of which, is the supreme law of this country is our first line of defence of these first and second generation rights of all South Africans, especially the rights of people falling under the categories that I have just highlighted.

Fortunately, the Constitution not only protects the rights of all individuals but also creates an environment in which all people can expand their inherent capabilities without fear or prejudice for self-development and sustained elevation of the society towards a better and more humane life. 

As the democratic government, we have developed policies, strategies and programmes that seek to deepen and promote the rights of all individuals, including those of people with disabilities.

The 1997 White Paper on persons with disabilities is one case in point. It is a policy framework that guides all of us involved in activities aimed at enhancing economic, social and institutional mechanisms needed to bring about rapid and significant changes in levels of living for people with disabilities.

In essence, we expect to see sustenance, self-esteem and freedom being enjoyed by all South Africans at all levels of our society without any form of discrimination.

Like in the past ten years, we have, once more, converged here today under one roof, to come and share, celebrate and appreciate the self-esteem displayed by some individuals living with disabilities.

Indeed, we have come to recognise the excellent achievements by professionals and individuals who work tirelessly to promote the rights of people with disabilities and also contribute towards addressing the challenges that affects them on daily bases. 

As government, we are quite aware that people with disabilities still suffer or encounter many challenges from the communities in which they live. 

Most of them are often subjected to stigma and discrimination. Some of our people still look at them through the lenses of charity cases instead of ordinary human beings with full human rights.

Individuals and families are still scared to expose their children and members of their families to institutions and community-based organisations that look after the interests of persons with disabilities. 

This behaviour is denying the affected individuals the opportunity to enjoy their rights to the fullest as human beings.

It limits them to exploit and expand the range of economic and social choices available to them to enhance their material well-being, including that of society as a whole.

Like the rest of us, people with disability have the rights to decent work, better education and health care, shelter and sustainable livelihood, including security and safe environment.

As government, we have always priorities issues affecting people with disabilities. 

We are aware that protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the Constitution and statutes, including the development of few programmes that pursue the development of this category of our people are inadequate.

It is this understanding that made the ruling Party in its Polokwane Conference to resolve that, among other things, the issues relating to vulnerable or targeted groups must be placed high on our developmental agenda. 

The establishment of the Ministry of Women, Children and People with disabilities in President Zuma’s administration came as no surprise.

Through this Ministry, government is expecting to strengthen its policies, strategies and programmes geared towards advancing the plight of persons living with disabilities.

We expect to see them not only participating in programmes for growth and development but also taking lead on issues of policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

As the Provincial government, we admit that we were not doing enough to address the issues affecting people with disabilities. 

One of the areas that are evident is on equity targets. After the assessment of 2005 we committed ourselves to increase the number of people with disabilities employed in the Public Sector by 2% over a period of ten years.

Today we are three years away from the target year. According to the latest information, we are far from reaching the 2% employment target of people with disabilities in the Public Service. 

On the area of economic development, we also find ourselves to be dwindling. We are also not visible enough in terms of creating economic opportunities for people with disabilities.

Without doubt, we have to change our approach on matters that affect people living with disabilities. In the past seventeen years or so, we have run so fast as abled members of the society and left them so much far behind on a number of fronts.

Informed by this reality, government has therefore decided to elevate the issue of education and training because its impact on individual growth and development is undoubtedly huge. It opens up more opportunities to exploit for self-development, as well as the society as whole.   

As government, we have decided to build more schools for people with disabilities so that we can empower them with various skills that could assist them to participate in the mainstream economy. The Department of Education is leading this programme.

We are also going to embark on a massive Campaign of interacting with our communities to bring to the fore all people with disabilities so that together with their families and their communities can extend a helping hand in the development of this members of our societies.

Together, we have to work hard to change the attitude and perception of our people relating to people living with disabilities.

Together, we have to assist these members of our communities to reach their full potential. They must be part of our communities and have self-respect as individuals. They must appear before public without shame. 

Yesterday, I had a meeting with an organisation that is working together with persons living with disabilities – the African Sinakho Arts. If they are here, I wish to request them to stand up so that everybody can see them.

They are focusing on performance Arts. They are leading a group of Artist, of whom, the majority are persons with disabilities. They will be having a show in Nelspruit from the 28th of March to the 2nd of April.  

Without disclosing the nitty-gritties of the show, suffice to say that I have committed myself to bus the people with disabilities in the Province to go and see the show. I also committed myself to pay the entry ticket for all persons with disabilities who will be attending the show.

Now, what I request from you is to ensure that you are available to meet your friends from KZN.

As I conclude, allow me Programme Director to take this opportunity to congratulate all the contestants of the different categories who will be receiving their awards today. You have done us proud. You defied all odds and made things happen under difficult circumstances. We are really proud of you. 

All nominees who won’t be receiving awards today do not despair because, in our book, you are also winners. By virtue that you are changing the lives of people for the better out there, you are a winner.

My gratitude also goes to all the people who are holding hands of our brothers and sisters who live with disabilities. Your passion to lend a helping hand is amazing. All what one can say is that, soldier-on, do not give up the good work that you are doing. 

May you have a successful ceremony.

I Thank You

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