People living with disabilities have not only formed a political party to fight for their rights, but the party also boasts a “military” unit to protect their vulnerable members should they get a seat or two in the “chaotic” parliament.
The African Disabled People’s Movement (ADPM) was established by former ANC member in Winterveldt, north of Pretoria, William Shibuyane, in 2012, and was registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in August last year, in time for next year’s general elections.
The 49-year-old father, who was born with a disability, told The Citizen that though there were progressive policies on the welfare of people living with disabilities, implementation was scarce.
Shibuyane said the party’s focus was on defending people with disabilities and to ensure that policies aimed at this most vulnerable sector of society were optimally implemented.
He said they were left out when it comes to employment opportunities, suitable public transport and access to housing, as well as representation in high decision-making bodies.
“We watch from the sidelines when decisions about us are taken. There is a high unemployment rate among people living with disabilities though they are skilled and qualified.
“Roads are terrible so we can’t use our wheelchairs on them, we are easy targets for petty criminals but we are never involved in community safety programmes. If we do not stand up for our rights, who will?” he said.
Shibuyane said people living with disabilities were unable to go to government departments for services as there was no transport suitable for their needs.
He said they have recently criss-crossed the country, bringing together their members, and have invited officials from departments of home affairs, health and social development to give them services in their own neighbourhoods.
Shibuyane said the reason behind the party’s “army”, the African Disabled People’s Liberation Army, was that parliament had become dangerous of late and their members would need protection when chaos erupted.
“Our members are blind or deaf, wheelchair-bound, limbless or on crutches. Imagine what would happen to them if a scuffle broke out? The army will come in and assist our members,” he said.
Shibuyane said the caricature of an AK47 assault rifle on the party’s army emblem was symbolic, since members of the unit were not armed.
He said they started with 70 members but now have 8 000 members nationally.