Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
A NEW dawn has arrived for people with disabilities (PWDs) after President Mnangagwa yesterday promised dedicated financial support services to enable them to grow their businesses and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country in line with Vision 2030.
President Mnangagwa said under the Second Republic no-one will remain behind in terms of socio-economic emancipation, adding that PWDs will soon be proud owners of land, homes and financial support services, which are economic enablers.
PWDs, he said, must stand up and be counted as they contribute to building the prosperous Zimbabwe they want.
The President said this while officially opening the three-day ninth National Disability Expo at the Sports Club Grounds in Gweru.
Organisations representing people with disabilities were exhibiting products, crafts and other services from the disability sector.
The Expo’s key focus is to enable PWDs to be aware of existing technologies, equipment, aids, services and products.
About 2,4 million people are with disabilities in Zimbabwe, which is about 15 percent of the national population.
“While touring stands, I thought of something, women are united and with Cde Muchinguri (Defence and War Veterans Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri) and other women they wanted their own empowerment bank and we gave them the Women Empowerment Bank, the youths said they wanted a bank and we gave them a youth bank. So, namhlanje, I told Cde Joshua Malinga (Special Advisor on National Disability Issues in the Office of the President and Cabinet) sifuna ibank yethu.
So, it is possible to open a financial window where you can access financial support,” he said, amid whistling and ululations.
President Mnangagwa said he is going to discuss the matter in Cabinet as soon as possible so that PWDs have a specific window of financial support dedicated to them.
“What I saw is that you need financial support and I will encourage you to bring your business ideas, your programmes and you will be assisted.
Another thing is that I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of things you do, things which were displayed, even the visually impaired, you do wonders with your hands. But I think if we agree, the Cabinet will put up the financial window; it will be of great assistance to you,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said Government is committed to seeing the lives of PWDs improve for the better and has been removing existing barriers.
“Today, I will tell you that last week I appointed a visually impaired judge. We now have a judge at the High Court who is visually impaired. With this Government, we are eager to do everything in our power to assist PWDs,” he said.
President Mnangagwa, as a “listening President”, took time to listen to the needs of PWDs as he allowed them to interject during his speech and responded to their concerns.
Within the crowd, some shouted that they needed houses and land, so that they live comfortable lives like other Zimbabweans.
“Someone said they need land. Well, as I have said, we are including you in Pfumvudza, meaning that you will have access to land. In your provinces you need to organise yourselves and approach the Ministers of State with your database.
That way there will be order and you will get your pieces of land. Now we are taking away land from multiple farm owners and or from those with large pieces of land, and we will allocate you the land. You will also get your farming inputs like other people.
You just need to be organised and approach the provincial leadership in your areas,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said he was going to work with Cabinet to ensure that PWDs get a percentage of homes in any housing construction project in the country.
He said Government buildings should also be accessible to PWDs so that they are able to access goods and services they need.
“Today, we have to reason together so that we do one thing and achieve one thing together. After arriving here, I had a meeting with your leaders and they said there are things they see which haven’t been addressed in the country.
Today, Cde Malinga spoke out. He just said there are barriers hindering the progress of PWDs which must be removed,” said President Mnangagwa.
On availability of assistive devices like wheelchairs, crutches and hearing aids, President Mnangagwa said funds were available to purchase the items which will be given to those in need for free.
“Funds are there to buy such assistive devices, these are small things and the only challenge is that you had not spoken about them, but as I have said, you only need to organise yourselves and take the lists to the relevant offices in your areas and such things will be provided to you for free,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said Cde Malinga has in the past advised him of the need to remove barriers in society so that PWDs occupy positions in Parliament, in company boards and other decision-making positions in society.
“You also asked for the expo, now it’s a national expo but you want it to go international, that is possible but there are things you need to do. Your leaders must have memoranda of understanding with other bodies like yours in other countries.
You agree that in Zimbabwe you are going to have an expo and after reaching an agreement, you have Paul Mavima (Public Service and Social Welfare Minister), you tell him in time that you want to invite them and want assistance from Government and so that is not a problem. We can look after your guests. Government can assist you so that they have a beautiful stay in the country,” he said.
He said only Zimbabweans alone can develop their country and challenged PWDs to work on leaving a legacy.
“Zimbabweans will develop this country and no other people can come and build this country. You need to leave a legacy.
You can’t leave a legacy when calling for sanctions; such people have no place in our society,” said President Mnangagwa.