Response by MEC Mxolisi Sokatsha on behalf of the Premier, Ms Sylvia Lucas, at the Disability Pride Parade

Programme Director
Members of the Executive Council present
Heads of Department
Members of Civil Society
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

I want to start by thanking everyone that participated in the pride parade today, for not only their courage shown, but for their perseverance in tackling this walk to highlight your concerns. Rest assured as a caring Government your concerns will receive the necessary and deserving attention.

This year, as we celebrate 21 years of a democratic society and commemorate 60 years since the signing of the historic Freedom Charter, we do have much to be proud of as nation. The commemoration of the International Day of Disability this year in South Africa under the theme, ‘ A free and just society inclusive of all persons with disabilities as equal citizens”; will thus be a reflection on what the past 21 years of freedom have meant to persons with disabilities and their families.

Before 1994, persons with disabilities had no rights. They had no recourse even if they were denied basic services such as education, health, rehabilitation and social grants on the basis of race, geographical location, gender, age or ability, as these were deemed privileges of a few. This only motivated persons with disabilities to act and the release of the Disability Rights Charter of South Africa in 1992 set the tone for how disability was to be approached in our new democracy.

The inclusion of the equality and non-discrimination clause in the Bill of Rights, with discrimination on the basis of disability specifically outlawed, was the first concrete step in entrenching a rights-based approach towards disability in the new South Africa. We thus have reason to celebrate where we come from but as a Government we are saying that more can be done to offer people with Disabilities equal status in our society.

Coming back to the memorandum that you have just handed to me, I want to give you the assurance that what you have you outlined will be afforded the highest attention by the Provincial Administration as we work together to move this beautiful Province forward for the good of all our people.

The passing of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Preferential Procurement Act, the release of the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy, White Paper 6 on Inclusive Education, among others, provided an environment in which opportunities have been created.

A challenge which we need to collectively tackle is improving the empowerment of persons with disabilities through accessible disability information services, inclusive early childhood development opportunities, accessible rehabilitation services, quality inclusive lifelong education and training and peer counselling services, and removing barriers to the built environment, transport systems and communication. This will enable persons with disabilities to take up the opportunities created in much larger numbers, improving our performance in achieving equity targets.

To this end, however, the Job Access Strategic Framework is there to monitor the mainstreaming of disabilities within government’s policies, plans, projects and budget. The departments are required to submit the progress regarding the implementation of the Job access Strategic framework to the Premier’s Office for analysis. After analysing the report, the Premier’s office will then identify disability service delivery gaps and make recommendation to the accounting officer.

The Office on the Status of Persons with Disabilities is in the process of setting up disability rights service delivery system in order to address issues of accessibility in terms sign language interpreter, format braille, personal assistance and assistive device. There is public participation through the Cabinet meets the People programme and we are prioritising a specific outreach that deals specifically with disability programmes. Such consultation processes with Disabled People Organizations will take place.

As I have outlined, we are steadily moving towards addressing the needs of Disabled persons and for this reason, Provincial Government through the Office of the Premier places high emphasis on especially job equality and to this end systems are being put in place to ensure the implementation of the Job access Strategic Framework, Gender Equality Framework and the Employment Equity act. The office is also in the process of developing the Provincial Reasonable Accommodation policy.

Accessibility for Disabled persons at our public facilities is equally high on the agenda of the Provincial Government. Work is therefore being done to audit accessibility at all our public buildings. Transport also forms the basis to accessibility and for this reason Government will lead a transportation summit in order to identify gaps and come up with mechanisms to address accessibility with regard to public transport.

I want to give everyone present here today the assurance that Government at all levels remains committed to ensuring that people with disabilities remain an integral part of our developmental agenda. This will be made possible through the finalisation and implementation National Disability Rights Policy.  Speaking at the launch of National Disability Rights Awareness Month this year, the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, stated that the development of the Policy is at an advanced stage.  This policy includes a monitoring and evaluation framework that will assist the Department of Social Development to track progress made in eradicating inequalities and reducing poverty among people with disabilities and their families. Through the policy, South Africa will ensure it honours its obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which it is a signatory. The policy is also a means to promote the active participation of people with disabilities in the country’s economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by saluting our Disability rights activists, for your efforts not only now but even before we became this proud democracy. Your struggle was and will never be in vain. As a government that cares for and understands the needs of its people; I want to give the undertaking once more that, collectively we will contribute to the empowerment of people with disabilities through accessible disability information services, inclusive early childhood development opportunities and accessible rehabilitation services, among others. This will be by no means be a compliance or target driven exercise but to ensure that opportunities are created and taken up in much larger numbers by our persons living with Disabilities.

I thank you

 

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