Yesterday was indeed a day of mixed feelings for me. When I woke up I was filled with euphoria & excitement. Sadly the events of the day turned my smile upside down. What was meant to be a day that our Government remembers that people with disabilities are part of society & must be included in all spheres of society ended up as a freak show at best and a battle ground at worst.
The International Day for People with Disabilities is held annually on the 3rd of December. Sadly in 2017 this day came & went without much attention being paid towards it as usual! Just when I thought all hope was lost I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the government had planned to hold commemorations for this day though ‘slightly’ delayed due to logistical challenges.
The rumour machine went wild with speculation that the new President of the country Cde E.D Mnangagwa would officiate the event, much to the pleasure of people with disabilities! It was also mentioned that the event would be held on Valentine’s day as a ‘gesture’ of love towards people disabilities from government. The 14th of February came & went with no official statement, then 9 March came & went in the same manner. Finally firm official communication was issued out by the Ministry of Social Welfare (the parent ministry of pwds) indicating that the commemorations would be held on 26 March 2018. It was also confirmed that these President of Zimbabwe Cde E.D Mnangagwa would be the guest of honour. This event would be held in the peri-urban location of Caledonia as a way to ‘celebrate’ people with disabilities who managed to build their houses in that area through their own hard work and perseverance.
Upon arrival at the venue I quickly noticed that the terrain was rugged making it rather difficult for people who use wheelchairs to get from one point to another. The event started 2 hours after it was scheduled to have began. One of the items on the programme was solidarity messages from various organisations and corporates as a was of promoting the day and general inclusion of pwds I suppose. Mr Mungoni a man with visual impairment who happens be Director of the National Association of Societies for Care of the Handicapped (N.A.S.C.O.H) and a member of the National Disability Board was denied the opportunity to read out the speech. I asked him why this had occurred. He then responded by saying ministry officials felt that his speech was too strong! This is sad as especially since the leader of the new government has a mantra which he consistently reiterates; “The voice of the People is the voice of God!”
At some point while at this function I felt as if I was at the wrong venue because of the politicial under tones that were visible at the event. I ended up having the impression that this was indeed a political rally that was held under the guise of being commemorations of the International Day for People with Disabilities. Most of the attendees were in fact people from surrounding areas. Also interesting is the fact that the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare is a member of parliament representing that area.
“The voice of the people is the voice of God!” – Cde E.D Mnangagwa
The President did not officiate this function due to other “pressing” issues. Instead Vice President Cde K.D Mohadi officiated the event. Of interest is that he managed to say the ruling party slogan not once but twice during his speech. He also paid tribute to the people of Caledonia & did not to so to people with disabilities.
As if to add insult to injury there were confrontations between attendees and Ministry of Social Welfare officials which culminated in Zimbabwe Republic Police throwing teargas into the rowdy crowd ostensibly calm the situation. Sadly these actions may have put the lives of innocent bystanders with disabilities in danger. Indeed something gotta give!
The official statement of the event
The programme of events. Arrow indicating NASCOH was indeed on the programme⬆