Zimbabwe launches Parliamentary Caucus on persons with disabilities

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A parliamentary caucus for persons with disabilities was launched in Harare on Friday with a call by the Speaker of Parliament to ensure that the voices and needs of all citizens, including those with disabilities, were heard and addressed positively.

Hon Jacob F. N. Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament, said the caucus should be more than just a group of like-minded parliamentarians, but has to be a powerful force for mindset change and a beacon of hope for the millions of people with disabilities in the country.

He said through this parliamentary lobby and advocacy grouping, the opportunity should arise to amplify the perspectives and experiences of the often marginalized community so that it can abundantly actualize its aspirations in all sectors of the economy without any apology.

“In addition to serving as a watchdog and monitoring the effectiveness of existing laws and policies related to disability rights, this Caucus is enjoined to work with Select Committees to hold the government accountable for its commitments and actions regarding the needs of people with disabilities.”

“Such a cross-cutting approach guarantees the multidimensional tackling of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities wholesomely,” said Hon Mudenda.

The caucus objectives among others include lobbying for budgetary allocations for the procurement of their assistive devices; enhancing the organizational capacity for persons with disabilities for them to have a unity of purpose; creating employment opportunities and economic empowerment for them through vocational skills capacitation; and raising awareness of the vocal cry of persons with disabilities so that they should not be discriminated against based on unfounded stigma.

As a Member of the United Nations, Hon Mudenda said Zimbabwe is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) which it ratified in September 2013.

“This ratification adequately attests to the Zimbabwe government’s unequivocal dedication to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities in conformity with international standards and norms.”

He said the recent approval for the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was glaring evidence of the commitment to this cherished cause by the government of Zimbabwe.

Hon Mudenda said as a result, Parliament domesticated these protocols through the enactment of the Disabled Persons Act [Chapter 17:01] of 1992 which stands as the testimonial in the legislative framework in laying the legal foundation for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities.

“Moreover, the adoption of the National Disability Policy of 2021 does consolidate the Government’s synchronization of its perspectives relevant to persons with disabilities. To further improve the welfare and status of persons with disabilities, the Persons with Disabilities Bill, presently under parliamentary scrutiny, heralds a transformative shift towards a rights-based approach to disability legislation,” said Hon Mudenda.

He said the fact that people with disabilities were now represented in Parliament ensured that they are now able to mainstream disability issues in all business processes of Parliament, adding that Hon Rossy Mpofu, who is also the Special Advisor to the President on disability issues, will make sure that the caucus holds periodic interfaces with Parliament on several issues.

Speaking at the same event, Senator Annah Shiri, who represents persons with disabilities in the senate, said the establishment of the caucus was yet another true testament to Zimbabwe’s mantra of leaving no place and no one behind, where one of Zimbabwe’s key pillars in entrenching democracy has walked the talk by ensuring that the aspirations and desires of Persons with disabilities in as far as formulating sound, realistic and concrete laws are made possible.

She said the country had always been a trendsetter when it comes to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities as evidenced by its thrust to cement inclusion through putting in place progressive laws and policies such as the Constitution of Zimbabwe where disability rights and fundamental freedoms were espoused in Sections 3, 6, 22, 56, 83 and 120.

“What this entails is that for sustainable development to be made possible, which encompasses passing the test of good governance, the supreme law of the land recognises the need to protect, promote and advance the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Senator Shiri.

The launch ceremony was made possible by Sightsavers, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), and Equal Zimbabwe.