40th Biennial Conference

Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape Province, Mrs Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the Gala Dinner of the South African National Council for the Blind 40th Biennial Conference, Kimberley Convention Centre, 20 October 2011.

Honourable Judge of the Constitutional Court, Justice Zac Yacoob
Chairperson of the South African National Council for the Blind, Advocate Lucky Bokaba
Deputy Chairperson of the Council, Advocate Praveena Sukraj-Ely
Councillor Daniel Lekoma (Member of the Mayoral Committee: Utility Services) representing the Executive Mayor of Sol Plaatje Municipality, Ms Agnes Ntlangula
National Treasurer of the Council, Mr Philip Bam
Honorary Presidents of the Council, Mrs Hazel Marshall and Advocate William Rowland
National Executive Director, Mr Jace Nair
Government Officials
All delegates to this Biennial Conference
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening. I am very pleased to be here tonight to address you on this seminal occasion of your Gala Dinner which precedes the 40th Biennial Conference in our beautiful provincial capital City of Kimberley.

We are indeed very grateful for the pivotal role that the South African National Council for the Blind plays in championing initiatives that place the plight of the blind and partially-sighted people very high on the development agenda of government and society in general.

Your convergence at this occasion demonstrates your unwavering commitment to help elevate issues affecting persons who are blind and visually impaired, and to position their concerns at a strategic level.

We will continue, as government, to work together with all the sectors of our society to ensure that our government becomes more effective in advancing the cause of the blind and partially sighted.

Programme Director, the 40th Biennial Conference must thus serve as a poignant reminder of our desire to build a caring, compassionate and people-centred society that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people of South Africa.

We are therefore determined to build a society that takes care of the poor, elderly, young, women, children and all the vulnerable sectors of our society in an inclusive and decisive manner. We will continuously strive to ensure that every member of our society plays a meaningful role in the social, cultural and economic life of society so that they have opportunities to contribute to the growth and development of society.

To achieve this, it is important that sufficient resources are made available to build institutional capacity that facilitates the inclusion of persons from all walks of society in all aspects of social life.

Programme Director, it has been proven around the world that all the successful and highly developed countries optimally tap into the strength, skills and capabilities of their citizens for them to triumph and grow as nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our government firmly believes that persons who are blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired must lead a life of independence and dignity. They must be allowed to take part in the life of the community on an equal level with others.

They must therefore have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all the goods and services provided by government and government entities.

People that are blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired must exercise the same rights and obligations as others. In all societies of the world there are still obstacles preventing them from exercising their rights and freedoms thus making it difficult for them to participate fully in the activities of their societies.

It then becomes the responsibility of government to take appropriate action to remove such obstacles or barriers. Blind people and their organizations should at all times play an active role as partners in this process. The equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities is an essential contribution in the general and worldwide effort to mobilize human resources.

It is therefore for this reason, Ladies and Gentlemen, our ANC-led government recognizes the principle that people that are blind and personally impaired must be empowered to exercise their human rights, particularly in the field of employment. In both rural and urban areas they must have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the labour market.

In the areas of skills development, we believe that all the blind and partially-sighted people are entitled to be trained by suitably qualified people who are skilled and empower them to live fulfilling and productive lives.

In addition, Ladies and Gentlemen, laws and regulations in the labour market must not discriminate against any person in our constitutional democracy. Our government recognizes the principle that all persons must be empowered to exercise their human rights, particularly in the field of employment. In both rural and urban areas they must have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the labour market.

Moreover, special attention must be paid to the twin challenges of poverty and unemployment which are still rife amongst people who are blind and partially impaired. People that are blind must not be denied full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges and advantages that has been made available by our government and society at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen, despite the significant strides that have been made by our government, persons that are blind and visually-impaired continue to face barriers and challenges that limit their participation as equal members of society. These artificial barriers constitute a gross violation of human rights to which they are constitutionally entitled. As society, we have a responsibility to ensure that every citizen experiences the full enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination.

It has never been denied that people that are blind are vulnerable, marginalized and poor, particularly in developing countries like South Africa. Various myths about people with impairments fuel discrimination against blind people.

The inclusion and integration of persons with impairments into society as equal citizens is not just about their mobility and physical access to social facilities - it is about society coming to terms with the diversity of humanity, overcoming its cultural and emotional barriers so that it embraces its entire people as the constituent element of its inalienable and inherent identity.

This assembly is a fitting reminder that our march into the future to build a truly caring and people-centred society for our country will be determined by the extent to which we involve people that are blind at all levels of our society.

In conclusion, I thank you again for the opportunity to be here tonight and to meet with all of you. I am confident that the proceedings and deliberations at your conference will be both fruitful and meaningful.

May God Bless You!

 

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