Unlocking an Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities in Southern Africa

Archive for September, 2014

SAFOD, FEDOMA Petition Malawian Airlines

airlinesOn 29th August 2014, SAFOD in conjunction with the Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) jointly submitted a petition to the Malawian Airlines appealing to the company to take drastic measures aimed at ensuring that all its facilities and services are disability-friendly ahead of the 2014 AfriNEAD Symposium which will take place from 3rd- 5th November 2014 at Sun and Sand Holiday Resort in Mangochi.

The petition was produced against the background that Malawi prepares to host the 2014 AfriNEAD Symposium organized by the Secretariat of the African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD) in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Science of the University of Malawi; the Government of Malawi; and FEDOMA. As a country we are expecting about 200 delegates with disabilities from various countries to pass through our airport.

Having noted with regret that some of the services rendered by Airline leave a lot of to be desired despite Government passing the Disability Act barely two years ago, our main fear is that is the potential humiliation that Malawi may face during the conference should there be no attempts to improve services and facilities to make them disability-friendly.

Our case has been strengthened by the complaint submitted to the same company by our colleague, the Chief Executive Officer for the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA), Mr. Kudakwashe Dube, who is alleged to have been dragged on the floor to and from his aircraft seat in Lilongwe, on both his arrival and departure dates on 13 August 2014 and 15 August 2014, respectively.


SAFOD Participation at the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum

10th SADC CSO Forum

A cross-section of delegates at the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum held from 28th to 30th July 2014, in Harare, Zimbabwe.

SAFOD was invited to participate at the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum held from 28th to 30th July 2014, in Harare, Zimbabwe. SAFOD Project Coordinator, George Kayange, represented the organisation at the forum where he made a presentation on the key issues affecting Persons with Disabilities in the SADC region which were incorporated into the forum’s Declaration and Communique

The organizers of the meeting, the Southern African Development Community – Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO), an umbrella body of national associations of NGOs in the SADC region, together with the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCSA) and the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) extended the invitation following a meeting that SAFOD and SATUCC held two weeks earlier in Botswana where SAFOD lobbied for inclusion of disability on the programme.

The Forum, which ran a few days before the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, is a platform for civil society in the region that meets every year to dialogue and reflect on issues affecting the SADC region.

The participation of SAFOD at the forum was a huge success as it did not only help to raise the profile of SAFOD as an organisation (as delegates got to know about its existence) at regional level but also significantly raised the profile of the issues that the organisation champions in Southern Africa. The fact that disability was for the first time included as a key issue on the programme as well as incorporated into the communique signified that the Secretariat’s networking efforts are beginning to bear fruits.

The challenge that remains now is for both the SAFOD Secretariat and its membership to take advantage of the SADC-CNGO Thematic Area on Disability, which provides a convenient platform on which we can continue to sustain our advocacy and lobbying for the mainstreaming of the disability issues at the SADC level.

In particular, SAFOD needs to take advantage of the goodwill demonstrated by the other CSOs to support our campaign for the Disability Protocol. For example, the 2016 target is the timeframe within which the Protocol should be in place, and the target has not been proposed by SAFOD. Rather the target was proposed and unanimously agreed by the delegates themselves at probably the largest gathering (over 300) of CSO representatives and activists who represented different sectors in the SADC.  

Most significantly, our participation at the forum also provided us the opportunity to network with various stakeholders through a series of side-meetings, to the extent that we have been recognized by NCA-Malawi and MISA as their potential partners.

SAFOD Participation at the Experts Round-table on the African Disability Protocol

africa_protocolFrom 21st to 22nd August 2014, SAFOD participated in Experts Roundtable on the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa held at the University of Pretoria, Centre for Human Rights Law Faculty.

The round-table meeting was organized by the Africa Disability Alliance (ADA) formerly Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD) in collaboration with the University of Pretoria Centre For Human Rights and was attended by the African Union, Governments, Disabled Peoples Organisations, development partners, Civil Society Organisations, human rights institutions and academics.

The round-table meeting sought to discuss and seek inputs to the proposed Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa.  The discussions focused on the following two broad questions:

  • What is the need for an African Disability Human rights instrument (the Disability Protocol) (“Feasible or Desirable”)?
  • What are the substantive African disability rights issues? And how can this mechanism protect these rights for Africans with disabilities?

The roundtable meeting sought to discuss and seek inputs to the proposed Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa.  The discussions focused on the following two broad questions.

Represented by its Director Genmeral, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, SAFOD argued during the debate that if the worldwide campaign to mainstream disability in international and regional development endeavors is to really succeed, then it is very desirable that we, as Africans, have a specific Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa. 

SAFOD believes acknowledged the fact that the continent has its own cultural contexts that need to be comprehensively taken into account when implementing theConvention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) , and the Convention therefore cannot tackle all of them hence we need to come up with our own continental – and even regional – instruments that support the basic principles and spirit of the Convention itself.  We need a Protocol that should be able to, for instance, challenge traditional African views which conflict with the rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

To understand the content of the draft Protocol, download the publication that outlines the general architecture of the Protocol here.

To read more about the Experts’ Round Table event itself and the to view the photos, visit the Centre for Human Rights News (The University of Pretoria) website link here


Veteran Activist Tips SAFOD on Stratagies

SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula (left), poses for a photograph with Mr. Joshua Malinga after the meeting.

SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula (left), poses for a photograph with Mr. Joshua Malinga after the meeting.

On 7th July 2014, SAFOD held a meeting with one of the prominent founders of the organisation, a veteran disability activist and scholar, Mr. Joshua Malinga. The meeting was held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Mr. Malinga shared with the SAFOD Director General his thoughts and tips on how to ensure the effective revival of the organisation. The discussions centered on capacity building of affiliates’ leadership; the need to form a disability “think tank” to advise SAFOD on key disability issues; SAFOD networking strategies with other civil society organisations (CSOs), and the specific leadership challenges being faced by some SAFOD national affiliates.

During the meeting, Mr. Malinga expressed gratitude that Mr. Chiwaula had been able to spare some time to meet his “old friend” and discuss issues pertaining to SAFOD.

Mr. Malinga expressed sadness that it was ironical that the disability movement seemed to be so strong at United Nations level, but so weak at pan-Africa and SADC levels.

Mr. Malinga, however, took solace in the fact that Mr. Chiwaula had been appointed Director General at the very opportune time when the disability movement that once used to make its voice felt the Southern Africa region needed boost. He described the appointment of Mr. Chiwaula as refreshing, and that it would give hope to the region.

He said the disability movement in the region was facing unique challenges as “disability” was not just a human rights issue but also a political one. He said people working in the disability sector need to understand the politics of disability.

Mr. Malinga, who is currently lecturing a Degree Course in Disability at Gweru University, proposed that SAFOD needs to develop intensive training programmes for disability leaders in the region. In his own words, he said “we need to do what SAFOD used to do years back.”

When asked by Mr. Chiwaula what kind of SAFOD would he like to see, Mr. Malinga responded that he would like to see an institution that poised to empower leaders of national federations in the region.

He noted that currently most of the leaders of DPOs were no longer powerful as was the case in the past. He reasoned that when the current leadership leaves power, they would not create vacuum if they were well trained and empowered.

He said “disability” is an evolving concept, so too ought to be SAFOD.

At regional level, Mr. Malinga proposed that SAFOD needs to be more proactive on networking with other civil society organisations (CSOs), even with those that are not in disability per se, but deal with human rights in general. He noted, “currently we seem to work outside the CSO movement hence we face challenges to raise our issues.”

Another proposal Mr. Malinga made was that SAFOD needs to push for a disability protocol at SADC level. He, however, expressed delight that coincidentally the new SAFOD Secretariat was already working on this proposal.

Finally,Mr. Malinga proposed that SAFOD needs to select a few prominent in the disability sector to form he termed “A Group of Advisers” or “Think Tank” to advise the SAFOD leadership on voluntary basis on various developmental issues pertaining to disability mainstreaming at SADC level.

SAFOD Courts Official at the President’s Office in Botswana

Phinda Khame

Mr. Phinda Khame, Research Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Office of the President of Botswana – Disability Office

Accompanied by the Coordinator of Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD) Ms. Shirley Keoagile and member of the SAFOD Regional Executive Council (REC) Mr. Wabotlhe Chimidza, the SAFOD Dictator General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, and SAFOD Projects Coordinator, Mr. George Kayange, met Mr. Phinda Khame who is Research Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Office of the President – Disability Office, On 10th July 2014. The meeting was held at the Office of the President in Gaborone, Botswana.

The discussion centered on areas of collaboration between SAFOD and the office of the President and the challenges that disability sector face in Botswana – particularly  within the Office of the President, BOFOD, and Botswana Council for the Disabled (BCD) – and how SAFOD could intervene, among other issues.

Mr. Khame explained that his office was responsible for coordinating all activities related to disability in the country.
He said at first, it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health but eventually, in 2010, a special unit under the President’s Office was set up after realizing that disability was not being adequately addressed as a human rights issue when it was being coordinated under the Ministry of Health (where it was still being perceived as a medical issue). He said his Office was currently mainstreaming disability in government programmes.

Mr. Khame explained that they were also championing the implementation of the Policy on Care for Persons with Disabilities.
He outlined the operational structure which had an overall committee at the higher level providing oversight functions called NACODI which had district committees reporting to it whose mandate was to submit quarterly reports.

Mr. Khame said one of the key challenges they were facing was that they did not have enough resources/funding. He said they were trying to seek buy-in from international and regional development partners such as UN agencies and SADC for resource mobilization.

Mr. Chiwaula, however, commended the Botswana leadership for putting in place all the necessary structures for effective coordination of disability programmes in the country despite challenges in funding. He noted the challenges in Botswana were similar to Malawi where the coordination structure was the same but lacked funding. He then asked about the role of BOFOD in this regard.

Mr. Khame explained that the role of BOFOD was being frustrated by the structural challenges/set up where BOFOD and other DPOs were being seen as competing for resources with the Botswana Council for the Disabled (BCD) which was supposed to be a Government arm but in practice behaved like an NGO.

But BOFOD Coordinator, Ms. Shirley Keoagile, expressed disappointment that BOFOD was being sidelined by BCD. She said BOFOD had ten affiliate DPOs from ten districts, potentially making it to be one of the most influential organisations with a wide/national representation. She argued that this set up should have been an opportunity for Government and other partners rather than being perceived as a threat to BCD.

She said due to the current status quo, BOFOD did not have a strong leadership to the extent that they had to always rely on international workshops in order to strengthen its members.

Mr. Chiwaula cautioned that as long as the DPOs remained weak in the country, the disability movement in general will equally remain weak hence the urgent need for Government (through the Office of the Present) and BCD to begin exploring ways on how best to work closely with BOFOD.

SAFOD REC member, Mr. Chimidza, reiterated the need for DPOs to be empowered with training and other capacity building programmes.

Mr. Chiwaula clarified that there was need for all parties to understand the fact that BCD was service provider while BOFOD was for advocacy, in the same way as it was in Malawi where the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) was a service provider while the Federation of the Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA) was for advocacy. He noted that the same confusion used to exist in Malawi some years back, but through dialogue and consultations these misunderstandings were no longer there.

On areas of possible collaboration between SAFOD and the Office of the President, Mr. Khame said he would like to see SAFOD supporting the office in areas of advocacy and research.

SAFOD, SATUCC Agree on Networking and Collaboration


The meeting with SATUCC had to take place outside the office building because there was literally no access into the office for persons on wheelchairs

On 10th July 2014, the SAFOD Dictator General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, and SAFOD Projects Coordinator, Mr. George Kayange, met the Research and Information Officer at the Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (SATUCC), Mr. Paliani Chinguwo. The meeting was held right at the SATUCC offices in Gaborone, Botswana. SATUCC is an organisation that deals with workers some of whom may be disabled.

The two SAFOD officers were accompanied by the Coordinator of Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD) Ms. Shirley Keoagile and member of the SAFOD Regional Executive Council (REC), Mr. Wabotlhe Chimidza

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss possible areas of cooperation between SAFOD and SATUCC. SAFOD also ceased the opportunity to lobby SATUCC to include disability/SAFOD on the programme for the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum which was held in Zimbabwe from 28th to 30th July 2014.

Mr. Paliani Chinguwo expressed regret that the meeting took place outside his office because persons on wheelchairs – in this case Mr. Chiwaula and Mr. Chimidza – could hardly enter into the due to steps. He acknowledged that this was part of sensitization and an eye opener on his part as it was the first time they were experiencing such an embarrassment.

Mr. Chinguwo noted that some of the workers they deal had disabilities, and it would therefore be strategic for an organisation like SAFOD to help with sensitizing workers with disabilities on how they can be involved and benefit from joining unions. He said one of the underlying characteristics of trade unions is that becoming a member of a union is voluntary hence the need for sensitization about its benefits especially for disabled workers.

Mr. Chinguwo was also excited about the idea for developing possible joint project proposals between SAFOD and SATUCC focusing on the rights of disabled workers.

On the 10th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum held in Zimbabwe from 28th to 30th July 2014, Mr. Chinguwo said SATUCC would convince its partner organizers to invite SAFOD to the forum so that it could contribute issues on disability by way making a presentation in one of the parallel sessions. It was noted that the programme had parallel sessions on various issues including gender, women, youth, children, the elderly, minority groups, etc., but none on disability. 

He therefore acknowledged that the fact that disability was not included was indeed a clear indication that disability was one forgotten area that needed a lot of sensitization even among the organizers themselves.

Finally, Mr. Chinguwo proposed more areas of possible collaboration with SAFOD, including the following:

(i) SADC Employment and Labour Social Protection Protocol (where SAFOD could take a lead at issues pertaining to workers with disabilities)
(ii) SATUCC launch of a Plan of Action for the implementation of the Protocol/campaign
(iii) SATUCC to involve SAFOD in its activities that involve workers with disabilities, and SAFOD to involve SATUCC in its activities that involve employment rights of persons with disabilities.