Zimbabwe Coalition for Peace and Development (ZCPD) presidential aspirant, Trust Chikohora says People With Disabilities (PWDs) need sustainable policies that ensure economic empowerment and proper representation at all levels of governance, Community Voices Zimbabwe (CVZ) can reveal.
Chikohora, who is part of the 12 candidates vying for the presidential post in the upcoming August 23 elections, said his party recognises the plight of PWDs and has decided to highlight their issues through his candidature.
He said this after a ZCPD donation of a wheelchair and some groceries to PWDs in Gweru where he took the opportunity to also share his party’s policies towards the disability community.
A former special interest councilor representing the business community at Gweru City Council, Chikohora said there is a need to bring back these councilors to capture the needs of PWDs.
“I was a special interest councilor and saw the value of having Mr Mandiziva, at that time he was representing PWDs and I was representing the business community.
“There is value in having special interest councilors because they bring to the table other aspects which are unique and driven by key stakeholders within the community.
“Having special interest councilors is a positive move that we can be pushing as a party,” Chikohora said.
He said PWDs should not be spoken for, but speak for themselves hence the need to have them represented at every level of the governance process in Zimbabwe.
“They should be involved at every level of decision-making because they are there within society and throughout society. If it is a local authority, they should be there; if it is central government, they should be there; I am not sure if there is anyone with a disability who is in our current government but there should be at least somebody or some people at every tier in terms of our decision-making process.
That way, we will make decisions that are sensitive to issues to do with PWDs because we cannot speak for them, they should be able to speak for themselves. That is the policy that we have and that we will push for,” said Chikohora
On the electoral system, he said Zimbabwe still has a long way to ensure the inclusivity of PWDs in the voting process.
He said everyone should vote, regardless of their condition, and institutions like ZEC should visit people with no access to polling stations at their given addresses so that they exercise their right to vote.
“Where we are going in the future, the system should enable even cases where somebody who is in hospital ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) can go to hospitals to enable people to cast their vote.
“That is the future, that is where we should go as a country so that everybody participates,” he said
Economically, Chikohora said there should be deliberate efforts to reach out to PWDs so that they can be empowered to do their own projects and fend for themselves.
Despite disability activists saying political candidates should stop viewing PWDs as charity cases, Chikohora said the wheelchair and groceries donation are a way of spotlighting the needs of the disability community.
“In terms of the gesture, I have done this, yes also because I am running for President, but because it shows that I also have compassion for PWDs. Also, we also have a policy to uplift the lives of PWDs. It’s one thing talking and another thing demonstrating it by actually doing something.
“But more importantly, the fact that I am running for president means (the media) will be here because they want to hear what the presidential candidate is saying, it means everyone (journalists) will be here.
“I have taken advantage of that to highlight issues to do with PWDs. So there is a convergence of interest there,” Chikohora said.
The donation was done through consultation with outspoken disability activist, Nigel Tahwa, who is also the Let’s Make a Difference Disability Zimbabwe (LMDD) Executive Director.
National Council of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe (NCDPZ) Vice Chairperson, Nyasha Mahwende, said aspiring candidates should not only speak of disability issues when they want power but fight for their upliftment throughout their five-year terms. She argued that PWDs are not charity cases but need the right policies to economically empower them.
“We as PWDs are seeing people running around with groceries, wheelchairs, and other things. These things are coming in when people want positions and support from PWDs. It is not all about getting votes from PWDs but its also to seek people’s attention to see what they are doing.
“Many people are taking advantage of our challenges as PWDs when they campaign, then soon after the elections you won’t see them, you won’t find them and we are not happy as PWDs,” she said. We are saying if that is what you want, let it be like that for the five years you will be in leadership if you get in power. Remember us till the next term when you now want re-election, not that you only come to us when you want to be elected, and when you are elected you forget us.
“We have so many people who came to us with gifts, groceries, and everything but once elected they don’t even know that there PWDs. We are saying we don’t want that. We want someone who comes to the ground to ask us what are the issues that we have as PWDs, what he can do, and what he can do for us to address these issues. We want people who, when elected, are able to push for policies, for laws that will support us to the next generation, not just groceries,” she said.
Another disability activist, Joyce Togarepi, under NCDPZ women, said despite being desperate, PWDs vote objectively.
“We as PWDs accept everything; I know some people may call it vote-buying but mostly we don’t have anything or where to start. So those people who want to use us by giving us food, we will accept because we don’t have anything but we know what we want, we are people and we know our rights, our vote is secret,” she said.
It is estimated that they are about 1,4 million PWDs in Zimbabwe but have very limited representation in key decision-making positions and government.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says that PWDs have only a provision for two representatives in Senate.
It says the PWDs community recommends mandatory quarters for PWDs to support an increase in the number of PWDs legislators in Parliament to represent their issues.