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Knives must be for cutting bread

07 Jan 2019 at 14:22hrs | Views
we are now in 2019 and it seems the road is already bumpy with unusual challenges. On apersonal note, I am having to contend with the hard reality that using public transport, my assistant and I need at least $40 per week to go to work  yet An assistant is imposed on me by the fact that Harare is not navigable if one is blind. Before I get carried away dear activist, the purprose of this missive is to set my tone for disability activism. More particularly, to give you indications of what I feel will be my lines of operation for this year. In order to do that, I will reflect on a few things which happened last year.

2018 is indeed behind us. There were so many interesting things which took place. It being a year for elections, across political divide, disability was a topical issue. Without belittling the other political parties and independent candidates which took part in the elections and  included disability as part of their campaigns, I wish to give highlights of the actions by the two main contending parties on disability. On one hand, Advocate Chamisa's MDC alliance organised meetings at provincial level between its leader and persons with disabilities. At some point during his rallies, Advocate  Chamisa decided to include a sign languages interpreter, a thing which was new in the history of politics and disability inclusion in Zimbabwe.  

On the other hand, CDE Mnangagwa, in his capacity as the head of state, held a supposedly government meeting with leaders of organisations for persons with disabilities. I am reliably told that no sloganeering took place during the meeting. However, symptomatic of the conflation of ZANU PF party and government business, all delegates to that meeting had to wear name tags with PFE campaign messages. I am particularly interested in that meeting because, CDE Mnangagwa made promises in his capacity as the President and he indicated that he would fulfil them once he got a fesh mandate. The promises include interalia, that after elections, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be domesticated, that a substantive director for disabled persons affairs would be appointed and that such a person would be a person with a disability. Other promises to improve the self-representation of persons with disabilities and to improve their social and economic status were made. Unfortunately, so many hopes were raised with very little being done.

The only action close to the above promises came from Prof Mthuli Ncube,  the finance minister in his budget statement. Professor Ncube took a bold step to scrap duty on various assistive devices for use by persons with disabilities. This is commendable as it will improve the situation for persons with disabilities. I found the boldness of the action in that Professor Ncube stated that he was predicating his intervention on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that convention which government is dragging its feet in ratifying.

The issue of Prof Ncube's intervention  reminds me of something which I wish to spend a few paragraphs on mainly because it is something I hope will help you dear activist to understand what I feel our activism should be like. Following the presentation of the budget statement, Mr Rowdy Mabhaudhi celebrated on his facebook page saying:  "For us in the disability community we scored major victories in this budget. 15 DPOs had tasked me to make representations on their behalf and this happened with less than 72 hours to the budget. I managed to present our case to Prof Mthuli Ncube and surprisingly the good Prof factored them in."
In response to this, an article written by one, Mandla Ndlovu entitled "Knives out for Rowdy Mabhaudhi" appeared on Bulawayo 24.
It is not my intention to write a direct response to the article though I strongly feel that Mabhaudhi should have responded to the article when it came out. I am quite perturbed by the fact that someone could really dedicate acres of space to spew vitriol against one person who is trying to make a mark in disability. Make no mistake, I am an admirer of free speech and I have no problem with people who criticise where they feel things are not well. However, if one reads the article in question, it would appear that the major charge being raised against Mabhaudhi is that of being an ordinary member of ZANU PF and therefore, in terms of that logic, Mabhaudhi is thought to have no power to influence any policy change. Alternatively, Mabhaudhi is being charged with being ambitious to get political power. Secondly, Mabhaudhi is being accused of not having consulted any organisation as alleged on his facebook page. Surprisingly, the writer of the article secures views from purported individuals with disabilities rather than leaders of organisations for persons with disabilities.  Thirdly, Mabhaudhi is accused of having done nothing during the days he was in council as a special interest councillor for Harare.

I know for a fact, that indeed, Mabhaudhi belongs to ZANU PF and it is his democratic right to belong there. In fact, I have always argued that disability issues are not getting the right attention because absence of persons with disabilities in political spaces makes disability to remain a charity rather than a rights issue. In that regard, I celebrate people such as Mabhaudhi together with all the other people with disabilities who have decided to be part of any political party in this country. During this year, part of my work will be to encourage more and more of us to join politics. Secondly, I also have it on good authority that Mr Mabhaudhi met with professor Ncube on issues of the budget and prior to their meeting, Mabhaudhi had written to Prof Ncube tabling a number of issues that he had collected from organisations he consulted. Professor Ncube indicated that given the short time within which he had to deal with the budget, it would be impossible to attend to all the issues which Mabhaudhi brought but at least he dealt with removal of duty on assistive devices. Thirdly and more fundamentally, I can attest to the fact that Mabhaudhi has been involved in project which have benefitted persons with disabilities notwithstanding their political affiliation. One such project in which he was quite hands on was sourcing computers for use by visually impaired people at Harare library and Bulawayo public library respectively

The reason why I have gone to great lengths in stating these facts is because I think this year, we must learn to celebrate those activists who are able to bring tangible results. We must never succumb to the continuous weakness of glorifying names of certain gatekeepers who are bringing nothing to disability. If ever there should be knives in disability, they must be for cutting bread not cutting activists. May the peace of the Lord which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

Source - Abraham Mateta
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