The elections are almost upon us and we all need as much information as possible to help us choose the right party to vote for. But, even if you read the manifestos and sit glued to the television and radio, will you know all that you need to know before you make your X on April 22nd?
Rolling Inspiration wants to make it easier for you to vote because your vote does make a difference. Disabled people cannot afford to sit around in wheelchairs bemoaning the fate of disabled people in South Africa. Now is the time to stand up and be counted! Make your X and make a difference.
If the severity of your disability prevents you from getting to your nearest polling station take heart! The IEC has provided for two special voting days. The officials we spoke to said that very few people apply for special voting so, if you are bed-ridden, please read the information on page 36 and take a stand for democracy and disability!
In January 2009 we asked six political parties, the African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of the People (COPE), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Independent Democrats (ID), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) six questions, hoping that their responses would inspire you to get up and vote. The questions were:
1.How many National Candidates with disabilities do you have on your Candidate List for the next elections?
2.How many Provincial Candidates with disabilities do you have on your Candidate List for the next elections?
3.Are your Disabled Candidates high enough on your Candidate List to have a realistic chance of representing the party?
4.Do you have a disability policy?
5.Did you consult the disability sector when drafting your disability policy?
6.Please tell us how your Party will improve the lives of South Africans living with Disability.
Only three parties responded by our March printing deadline.
The African National Congress
There are eight candidates with disabilities on the national list for the National Assembly and 12 on the provincial lists for the National Assembly.
People with disabilities therefore constitute 5% of the ANC’s candidates for the national assembly. Going on previous election results, there is a reasonable expectation that about 13 of the 20 candidates will be elected.
There are five candidates with disabilities on the candidate lists for the nine provincial legislatures. Judging by their positions on the respective lists, and the ANC’s past performance, we expect that all five should be elected.
The ANC has long included issues of disability into its broader policy process. The ANC’s ‘Ready to Govern’ policy document from 1992 addresses the position of people with disability, as does the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) from 1994, which continues to underpin all the policies of the ANC in government.
The ANC has a close working relationship with organisations representing people with disabilities. Individuals involved in this sector, and in some instances the organisations themselves, participate in the policy development processes of the ANC. Most recently, there has been involvement from the sector in preparation for our 2007 National Conference in Polokwane and in the preparation of our 2009 election manifesto.
Over the past 15 years, the ANC has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of people living with disability. A particular area of focus has been on people with disabilities who are affected by poverty. The number of people receiving the disability grant increased from 600,000 in 1999 to almost 1.5 million in 2007. The ANC government has also set targets for the employment of people with disabilities in the public sector, and in programmes like public works. In the 2009 manifesto, which sets out the party’s plans for the next five years, the ANC commits itself to ensuring that economic empowerment and affirmative action benefit broader sections of society, including people with disabilities. It also plans to introduce a contributory social security system to provide for guaranteed retirement, disability and survivors’ benefit.
The Democratic Alliance
The Democratic Alliance selects its candidates entirely on merit, and we do not keep records of any categories of people who have been included on our election lists.
The Democratic Alliance has sections on disability in its social development, education and transport policies.
Various other policy documents contain proposals for programmes aimed at helping all people at a disadvantage, which would include many disabled. For example, we propose to enormously increase the efficiency of skills development programmes and we offer an Income Support and Unemployment Grant for people who cannot find work and wage subsidies to anyone who needs assistance to enter the labour market.
We were advised (on disability) by our spokesperson on disability, Kobus Marais, who is very involved with disability-related organisations. He is the President of DISSA (Disability Sports South Africa) and holds numerous positions on the boards of disability sports organisations.
The Democratic Alliance will improve the lives of the disabled by making the state institutions that exist to help and support them work more efficiently, and by working with non-government organisations to find out what gaps there are in the services available, and working to fill them.
The Independent Democrats
Response from ID party leader, Patricia de Lille: "To give you an example of how important it is to the Independent Democrats that the disabled are represented by our organization in Parliament: of the 7 MPs the ID appointed to the National Assembly in 2004, one was disabled.
The ID will ensure that we have people with disabilities on our national list, our regional national list and our provincial lists in all 9 provinces.
Disability became a very personal campaign for me after I was left paralyzed by a car accident a few years ago and I couldn’t wash myself, or even feed myself properly. The ID has made provision for people living with disabilities in a variety of our different policies. As the ID we believe that the issues affecting people living with disabilities cut right through every aspect of our society and, as such, must be dealt with uniquely by departments.
The ID has shown our commitment to the disability sector not only through our policies, but also our actions. For instance, the ID has taken on the transport sector. Over the past two years I have fought with South African Airways on numerous occasions over its treatment of people with disabilities to ensure that they carry out their constitutional mandate to treat people with disabilities like they treat other people – with dignity and respect. We have also met with the Education Minister to lobby for an immediate plan to ensure that the half a million children living with disabilities and currently not receiving an education are given the attention they need immediately.
People living with disabilities need to be granted far more assistance by the state and society at large. More assistive devices need to be made available such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc and more care attendants should be trained up. The government also needs to make housing, business premises (like banks) and public transport more accessible. All public buildings must be made accessible to people living with disabilities.
Most of our disability policies were drawn up by an ID MP living with a disability. He also collaborated with the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa (QASA). Around seven million South Africans are living with disabilities and an ID government would change the environment within the South African labour market to ensure that the attitudes of employers change. The lack of commitment to employment equity has resulted in a situation where people with disabilities are condemned to a life as second class citizens.
The target for people with disabilities in government is 2%, but the percentage remains at just 0.5%. The ID would force departments and private employees to change this sad state of affairs as a matter of urgency with the same vigor afforded to race and gender quotas.
The ID has set up a Wheelchair Fund, raising funds and distributing wheelchairs to many people in need. The ID has also taken up the issue of inclusive education and has visited many special needs schools through out the country to ensure our children get the education they deserve.
The ID will also make sure that all the infrastructure in all the cities and towns in our country are disabled-friendly."