Disabled Parly seats: will it make a difference?

People with disabilities have expressed mixed feelings over the two seats reserved for their representatives in the Senate, in line with the new Constitution.

Nyamayabo Mashavakure
Nyamayabo Mashavakure

Some of the people interviewed by The Zimbabwean said the two seats were not enough to make any difference while others said it was a good starting point.

Nyamayabo Mashavakure and Anna Shiri, representing people with disabilities, were recently sworn in among other incoming senators. A Disability Rights and Advocacy Officer with the Zimbabwe National League of the Blind, Abraham Mateta, said he was excited about the development.

The legislative representatives faced the immediate task of calling for realignment of Zimbabwe’s laws with the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, he said.

The UN convention calls for accessibility to amenities, equal opportunities, information and buildings, among others, by the physically challenged. Mateta said Zimbabwe did not have a comprehensive disability policy.

“We expect Parliament to formulate a national disability policy and revitalise national disability structures such as the national disability board,” he said.

Susan Marimo, a visually impaired Marondera resident, said she was optimistic that her voice and those of other people in her situation would be addressed through Parliament. But Masimba Kuchera said their representation in the Senate was nothing to celebrate.

Representation should be expanded to all spheres of public administration beyond Parliament for it to be meaningful, he said. “Remember the Senate does not do much in terms of policy making, so to be represented only at that level does not make any difference,” said Kuchera.

Kuchera and Mateta said people with disabilities constituted over 10 percent of the Zimbabwe population, and deserved more representation in law-making chambers.

Kuchera is a former secretary general of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe. He is the vice chairperson of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development and also sits on the Commission of Churches department of International Affairs.

Mashavakure, together with his female colleague, pledged to give their new assignment their best shot. “We will not tire until laws of the country provide for our needs such as employment, education, housing, social requirements, protection and assistance with necessary devices among others,” said Mashavakure.

Political analyst, Lawton Hikwa, said Zimbabwe needed more representation for people with disabilities at all levels of governance.

“People tend to undermine disability in terms of what we see with the naked eye. There are various forms of disabilities which are not visible with the eye,” said Hikwa, adding that the two-member representation in the Senate was on the lower side of reality, since people living with disabilities were a segment of society which deserved equal recognition.

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