THE launch of the national disability policy by government early this week is a positive step as it provides a legal framework for this community to be on equal footing with others.
It goes without saying that the policy was long overdue, and it’s our hope that the document will not end up gathering dust elsewhere as people with disability (PWD) continue facing discrimination and stigmatisation.
For years, stakeholders have been pushing for a legal framework to enable this community to enjoy equal opportunities as their able-bodied counterparts.
Speaking at the policy launch, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: “View a person with disability as being capable of productively participating in the building of our great country, like all other citizens.
“In line with the promise I made in 2018, my administration is determined to develop robust and responsive policies that meet the expectations of people with disability. As we do, it is incumbent on us all to shift from perceiving people with disability as objects of charity.”
We, therefore, call on Mnangagwa to go beyond rhetoric and implement the policy to its letter and spirit.
The policy spells out exactly what needs to be done to address past ills that people with disability suffered.
Key among many recommendations is the mainstreaming of disability into programmes, projects and institutions of governance as outlined in section 22 of the Constitution.
Also of importance is the establishment of a special advisor on disability issues in the Office of the President and establishment of a department of disabled people’s affairs in compliance with section 3 of the Disabled Persons Act [Chapter 17:01].
While the provisions of the policy are clear, it is incumbent upon government to ensure its implementation.
Sadly, history has taught us that well-meaning policies are never operationalised.
This should stop. The government has an obligation to ensure that people with disability are accorded their rightful place at all decision-making levels, particularly where their issues are at the centre of discourse.
We implore the authorities to follow up on their pledges and implement the policy to the letter.
The passion displayed during the launch should be sustained for the benefit of PWDs.