Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE has no disability policy, a situation that has riled people living with disabilities as they feel excluded from the rest of the population and Government programmes.
In an interview, Zanu-PF National Secretary for the disabled and disadvantaged Cde Joshua Malinga said a lot needed to be done to improve the welfare of the disabled and disadvantaged people in the country.
“I agree that a lot has been done for our people but the Constitution does not commit itself to turn the draft on disability into policy, they still need to act on this,” he said.
Cde Malinga said the lack of policy or legislation to this effect showed that the rights of disabled people were being infringed upon.
“The Government has not adopted or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons. Around 1999 we were leading in Africa in championing the rights of people with disabilities but now we are actually behind,” he said.
Cde Malinga said the education system was also not adequately addressing the needs of the people.
“Schools do not have us in mind; the environment is not friendly at all, we feel like foreigners in our own land. Schools do not have ramps or suitable toilets which is still a challenge for those with disabilities,” he said.
“We have no mechanism to address our issues, women have a ministry, wildlife has representation but disabled people have none. We deserve some form of recognition in the country. We are part of diversity and we need representation.”
For the past 10 years there has been a draft policy on disability which is yet to be made policy. People with disabilities said it was queer why there is a youth, gender and many other policies and none on disability.
Mr Elisha Muchiya a lecturer at Bulawayo Polytechnic said his institution was coming up with a Disability Resource Centre.
“We are setting up this centre at Bulawayo Polytechnic, at the University of Zimbabwe there is one that is well established and there are over 300 students that have their tuition being fully paid for via this initiative. We are not where we should be but we have done something. We have old structures that do not accommodate all students, some sections are accessible but many are not. It is work in progress though,” he said.
The institution has come up with a policy document that students also participated in drafting.
He said he was impressed by Mutare Teachers College’s stance on recruitment, which clearly states that students with disabilities should apply.
Bulawayo Provincial social welfare officer in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Phanual Dzoma said there were also challenges that were being faced by the disabled community especially when it comes to mobility on public transport.
“Before there were bus warrants for people living with disabilities but now transport operators refuse to take those warrants because the Government does not pay or delays paying so operators are reluctant to take them,” he said.
Dr Peter Nkala from the National University of Science and Technology Institute of Development Studies said the university was indeed not inclusive in terms of people with disabilities.
“Our infrastructure is not user friendly to people with disabilities, if one has to go to any floor above ground floor. Only on the ground floor can one get about easily. But we are making efforts to improve on that,” he said.
Dr Nkala said the institution, however, does not discriminate in terms of recruitment.
“We even go an extra mile and look at individual cases and make special considerations. We actually have a visually impaired student who is studying towards a Masters in Development Studies. He needs special consideration during examination times as he cannot read and write ordinary examination papers that will be prepared for everyone else so we have special print for him. We want him to graduate like everybody else and achieve his dreams.” he said.