Statement by the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisation (ZAFOD) and Disability Rights watch (DRW) on expectations from the new UPNF government

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Justine Bbakali

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AUGUST 24, 2021

For Immediate Release

Vice-Chairperson Mr. Paul Mbew – ZAFOD

The Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations (ZAFOD) and the Disability Rights Watch (DRW) wish to convey heartfelt congratulatory remarks to the newly sworn-in 7th President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. We take recognition and draw inspiration from your commitment to the governance of this great nation by rule of law and with respect for human rights. We also wish to applaud the Zambian people of Zambia for turning up in their masses to uphold our ever-growing democratic culture which has made Zambia the envy of the region and indeed the world. Mr. President, your inaugural speech at the National Heroes Stadium was inspiring especially on your pledge to run a more inclusive government. Our desire as persons with disabilities, for such a government, cannot be overemphasized.Our country is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was domesticated under the disability act No. 6 of 2012. Over the years, several pronouncements have been made by successive governments claiming to commit themselves to the disability course, and yet to date no meaningful change has been realized. We only hope that the UPND government will facilitate the implementation of the UNCRPD through the disability act No. 6 of 2012.Your Excellence, you may also wish to know that Zambia was part of the Global Disability Summit in 2018 hosted by the United Kingdom, where some commitments on disability issues were made. It is disheartening to bring to your attention that none of the commitments have been fulfilled to date; another hindrance to addressing challenges faced by Persons with Disabilities in Zambia. Matters pertaining to persons with disabilities have over the years ended with pronouncements and have never been supported with meaningful actions. It is this kind of approach and inertia from those who govern our nation that has continued to widen the gap between persons with disabilities and the rest of the Zambians in terms of opportunities, inclusion, and meaningful participation in national development. Persons with disabilities have continued to be an after-thought in our development agenda. One of our major expectations is that you will be keen to deliberately include, among your appointments, persons with disabilities who are suitably qualified to serve as nominated Members of parliament as article 69 of the Zambian constitution allows you to do so, and it reads69. (1) The President may nominate a person referred to in Article 68 (2) (b) where the President considers it necessary to enhance the representation of special interests, skills, or gender in the National Assembly. 259(1)(c)Where a person is empowered to make a nomination or an appointment to a public office, that person shall ensure— (c) equitable representation of the youth and persons with disabilities, where these qualify for nomination or appointment., Permanent Secretaries, District Commissioners, Ambassadors/High Commissioners, and indeed other constitutional appointments. We hope you could go down in history as the first President to demonstrate inclusivity in Governance, in practical ways.………………………………………………………………………..

Vice Chairperson Grace Nkhuwa – DRW

It will be very important for the new government to prioritize the building of consensus around the Constitution to allow for an electoral system that will affirmatively provide for effective self-representation of persons with disabilities, women, and the youth in the governance structures of the country. Currently, as persons with disabilities, we feel dejected, un-Zambian, and largely left behind.We expect the UPND government to adequately address the systemic marginalization and exclusion of persons with disabilities from public life. If this systemic exclusion and marginalization is left unchecked, it will continue to hinder not only the full realization of human rights but also the unity of the nation and could potentially dilute your efforts in uniting this country and creating equal opportunities for every citizen. Mr. President, as you begin to establish an independent electoral commission of Zambia, we would like to draw your attention to the High Court judgment (Sela Brotherton versus ECZ) in which ECZ was ordered to provide for an inclusive electoral process. We strongly believe that you will commit to the actualization of this process. We further appeal to all political parties to ensure inclusivity in their party structures, manifestos, and adoptions of candidates. We appeal to the media to play a pivotal role in raising awareness on the rights and special needs of persons with disabilities, and that “disability is not inability!”As we conclude, we wish to appeal to the general public, to the consciences of our fellow citizens, to embrace and accept persons with disabilities as diversity in humanity. We are not objects of sympathy and medical care but subjects of engagement and meaningful participation in national development. Respect for the rights and dignity of every citizen is extremely important if our young democracy is to thrive and benefit all Zambians. We wish to remind you fellow citizens that disability is a cross-cutting issue, and that every human is potentially a person with a disability! Therefore, it calls for every one of us to take it upon ourselves to raise the message of non-discrimination against persons with disabilities. Once again, Congratulations your Excellency on your resounding victory as the 7th President of the Republic of Zambia. May God bless and guide you as you lead this great nation. To all stakeholders, we say: Think development…Think disability…if there is no disability inclusion then there is no true democracy and development. God bless you all thank you!

SIGNED BY:

Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations (ZAFOD)

Disability Rights Watch (DRW)