South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa - International Day of Persons With Disabilities 2020

press release

Closing remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa for the Presidential Working Group on Disability and on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for their participation in this meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Disability.

It has been a robust and fruitful engagement.

We are infused with renewed commitment to take forward the many issues that have been raised here today.

This Presidential Working Group must continue to play its critical role in guiding different government departments as they implement plans, policies, measures and programmes to advance the rights of persons with disabilities.

It must also continue to assist us with accelerating the domestication of our international treaty obligations, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It is significant that we are meeting to address these critical issues on such an important occasion - the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

We are a country that is proud of its commitment to advancing the rights of every single one of our citizens.

After all, persons with disabilities are among our country's greatest heroes in sports, in music, the arts, journalism, and many other professions.

For every Natalie du Toit, every Justice Zak Yacoob and every Steve Kekana, there are thousands of persons with disabilities who are inspired to be all they can be, because they know ours is a country that will enable and support them to fulfil their potential.

For every Michael Masutha and Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu there are young men and women out there who are motivated to become leaders.

They are reassured that the doors to learning, to progress and to opportunity will not be shut against them because they have a disability.

They are encouraged - as we are - by the achievements of South Africans like Braam Jordaan, who today will be receiving the prestigious 2020 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award.

We congratulate Braam, who is an award-winning film maker and champion for better education in the deaf community, on achieving global recognition for his contribution to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.

As we observe this special day together with other countries around the world, let us remind ourselves that ours is truly a country founded on human rights, and one that belongs to all who live in it.

At the same time, we know that persons with disabilities face a number of challenges in our society.

These challenges prevent them from having a decent quality of life and from fulfilling their true potential.

Having come from a past that was soured by racism and sexism, we will not waver in our resolve to eradicate all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The rights promised by our Constitution, including socio-economic rights, apply to all.

They were hard-won and are inalienable.

We therefore will not tolerate a situation where persons with disabilities are denied access to healthcare, employment, education and basic services because of their disability.

Because our forebears fought and struggled for our freedom, we cannot rest if even a single one of our citizens is a victim of discrimination and prejudice on account of having a disability.

The social, economic and political inclusion of persons with disabilities is included in the UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals, as well as our own National Development Plan.

Now that we are in the final decade of implementation of both the NDP and Agenda 2030, we must increase the pace of change.

There can be no sustainable growth and development in any society if there are members who are excluded from being active citizens on account of disability.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the difficulties persons with disabilities face in a number of sectors, from accessing healthcare, to using public transportation, to seeking employment.

In line with our commitment to building back better towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world, we must ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.

As we mark 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, we must work to end gender-based violence against persons with disabilities and ensure that survivors get the necessary support.

According to numerous studies, women with disabilities are more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of partners.

Women and children with cognitive disabilities may be taken advantage of due to their perceived inability to report the crime.

Through the work of the Presidential Working Group on Disability, we are making sure disability is mainstreamed in all government plans and programmes, along with the necessary budgets.

Disability has been included in the workstreams of the National Coronavirus Command Council.

We are striving to ensure that the legal, social, economic, health care and containment workstreams include disability in their work.

A process is underway to finalise a report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on persons with disabilities, which will guide not only our approach to disability in the economic recovery plan, but also our preparation for future crises of this nature.

As we work to implement the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, we are making sure that persons with disabilities are prioritised when it comes to job opportunities under the Presidential Employment Stimulus, and that businesses owned and managed by persons with disabilities have access to opportunities in the key growth sectors.

To empower persons with disabilities is not charity.

It is not a favour or a demonstration of our goodwill as a government.

It is their right, as it is the right of every South African.

Today's meeting reflected on the progress we have made in meeting our domestic and international commitments to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

It is necessary to subject our current laws to ongoing review to ensure they meet our obligations. Where reform is necessary, reform will take place.

We remain committed to implementing the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to ensure our work is aligned with the UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development.

I have informed the Presidential Working Group that all of government is being held to strict targets when it comes to empowering persons with disabilities.

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will review the outcomes of the Medium Term Strategic Framework to assess annual progress on the implementation of the defined priority programmes for persons with disabilities.

The performance agreements I have signed with Ministers will assist implementation.

In the 26th year of our democracy, there really should be no more talk of the need to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

By now we must have moved to action, to advancing inclusion and to empowerment.

It is up to us as families, as communities, as religious and traditional leaders to break the barriers of stigma and discrimination.

It is up to us to teach our children that disability must never be a reason to tease, to bully or to hurt someone.

It is up to us as employers to demonstrate our commitment by hiring, training and capacitating persons with disabilities, and to make our workplaces conducive and safe for them.

We all have a role to play to promote inclusiveness and diversity, and to support persons with disabilities morally, socially, economically and politically.

I am pleased that today's meeting has served to clarify issues of priority, and that we have consensus on the steps that need to be taken to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.

As we work towards resolving these challenges, we can be assured of the strength and durability of the social compact between us as government, business, labour and the disability sector.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities let us all commit to be part of building a caring and inclusive nation.

I thank you.

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