Address by the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
3 Dec 2009
The Premier of the Western Cape;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Organisations of Persons with Disabilities;
Ladies and gentlemen
It is an honour and privilege for me to be here with you on this important occasion, as we celebrate the International Day of the Disabled Persons. We take this opportunity to honour disabled people organisations for the partnership with our government, in highlighting and bringing the challenges that face persons with disabilities to the fore.
Today we thank all sectors of society such as organised labour, civil society and business for supporting initiatives that are geared towards the improvement of the lives of persons with disabilities. Most of all, we thank persons with disabilities and their families for constantly reminding all of us in society of the principle which says "nothing about us without us".
This day is observed amid the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children. Consequently, we have the opportunity to highlight the issues of abuse, particularly incidents affecting children and women with disabilities.
In a much broader context, the theme for this event says: "Making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world." This is, as it should be, for any conception of development that leaves out certain sections of society is innately inadequate and thus serves no purpose.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It remains our duty as various role players in society to mainstream issues of disability, and to fully implement disability related policies in all aspects of our lives, consistent with the relevant legislation in our country. We should do this guided by the understanding that we cannot realise our vision of complete social cohesion so long as this critical social component is frozen out of the socio-economic orbit.
We come from a past which did not treat persons with disabilities with respect, which did not recognise them as full citizens of this country; a past which denied persons with disabilities their basic human rights, and did not accord them the status they deserve in society. We have come a long way to be where we are today. Firstly our government had to make sure that it legislates against any discriminatory practices.
We now pay a special attention and place sharper focus on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which we have ratified. We must also be able to proudly acknowledge our contribution to the development of this Convention. As a result we are beginning to translate policy into action and tangible outcomes.
In addition, gone are the days when persons with disabilities were denied access to basic health care. The past fifteen years have seen advances being made to ensure access to free primary healthcare, assistive devices and disability grants. The number of persons with disabilities accessing disability grants almost doubled from 694 000 in 2002 to 1 287 000 in 2008. People with disabilities constitute the third largest group of social grant beneficiaries after those receiving child support grant and old age pension.
We have also gone a long way in addressing the educational needs of the persons with disabilities, by ensuring that these needs are dealt with in an integrated way, as opposed to the special schools concept and approach that existed before.
Persons with disabilities are offered education within an inclusive and integrated schooling system which accommodates them in mainstream schools.
Our democratic government has also seen the transformation of Parliament and government departments to reflect that we are a society with a large number of persons with disabilities, who have a right to serve in parliament and government. It was within the spirit of "nothing about us without us" that we saw the increase of parliamentarians with disabilities entering parliament in the past fifteen years. This is also reflected in all three spheres of government from national, provincial to local government. We would not have achieved this if we did not implement policies of redress.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we re-commit ourselves to build on the successes we have made. We re-commit ourselves to continue with our efforts to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities.
To realise this commitment we have established a new Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. The major focus of this ministry is to implement the ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities I referred to above. We will also make sure that this convention is available in all accessible formats and official languages.
Like of all of us this, this Ministry is well aware of the challenges that still lie ahead of us. In the next five years we must ensure that persons with disabilities are beneficiaries and equal partners in all our programmes to halve unemployment and poverty.
We acknowledge that the active participation and contribution of all sectors of our society, including persons with disabilities is crucial to assist government to achieve this goal. By 2014 we should have achieved our employment equity targets (two percent according to Employment Equity Act), provided adequate and accessible housing for persons with disabilities and provided equal education to all learners with disabilities in mainstream schools. We should also have ensured that persons with disabilities are actively and meaningfully engaging in economic activities and the overall economic growth of our country.
As you would be aware, South Africa is hosting the secretariat for the African Decade on Disabled Persons. The objectives are to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are provided for, in all countries across our continent.
As we begin the second Africa Decade for Persons with Disabilities, our responsibility should go beyond the borders of our country. We need to advance the cause of persons with disabilities throughout the continent and play our role as hosts of the African Decade Secretariat.
To the African Decade Secretariat and all participating countries in our Continent, we say thank you for all that you have done thus far. We will participate in, and support you as you strive to achieve your goals and objectives.
Today as we celebrate, let us also re-commit ourselves to continue working for a better life for all, including Persons with disabilities. Today, historical injustices of excluding persons with disabilities are receiving utmost attention. As it has been indicated on this occasion South Africa is making steady progress but much more still needs to be done. We live and strive for a day in which all persons with disabilities will be treated as equals with the dignity they deserve, not as determined by others, but by themselves! This must not come as conference declaration but lived experience.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
3 December 2009
Source: The Presidency (http://www.thepresidency.gov.za)
Issued by: The Presidency
3 Dec 2009
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