The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 'Disability Forum a Success'

President Mugabe has described the just-ended African Leaders Forum on Disability in Lilongwe, Malawi as a success. He was speaking to journalists at Kamuzu International Airport just before he was seen off by Malawian President Dr Joyce Banda yesterday.President Mugabe arrived home yesterday afternoon and was met at Harare International Airport by Vice President Joice Mujuru, senior Government officials and service chiefs.

"I think we made a statement that . . . those in leadership must address the issues of people living with disabilities, nationally, regionally, continentally and even internationally," he said.

At a State dinner hosted by Dr Banda at the close of the forum at State House in Lilongwe on Monday, President Mugabe hailed churches and voluntary organisations for their role in caring for people living with disabilities, but said governments needed to do more.

"We got to know that there were methods of bringing greater ability to these people," he said.

"The blind could be helped to see in their blindness . . . they needed the love of society -- from top to bottom. They need us, people in Government to act."

President Mugabe said churches took the lead in this regard, and Government supported the causes, when things were actually supposed to be the other way round with the State at the forefront.

He said it was essential to identify skills possessed by people living with disabilities and to develop these as a means of overcoming stigmatisation and marginalisation.

"As long as someone has breath in them they have some skill," he said. "We have a task to perform, a responsibility to discharge," added President Mugabe.

Dr Banda hailed President Mugabe for his support for people living with disabilities.

"I have spent most of my adult life caring for the disabled, but one area I had overlooked was people with intellectual disabilities," she said. "There is no way, morally, we can go into the future and ignore our brothers.

"I personally intend to fight stigma, discrimination, isolation, abuse (suffered by people living with disabilities) whether I stay in the State House or not."

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