“The government must stop treating us as objects of charity”- People living with disabilities
Whilst the 2020 National Budget is considered the people’s budget by its maker, people living with disabilities have expressed disappointment on the budget’s proposal for free food handouts for them arguing that food handouts are not a panacea to a myriad of challenges faced by the sector and that the government should stop viewing them as objects of charity.
The 2020 Budget propose that labour constrained households which consists of persons with disabilities shall receive free food handouts among other interventions including assisted healthcare under the Assisted Medical Treatment Orders (AMTO) facility and cash transfers. The proposal was received with mixed feelings especially from the proposed beneficiaries. This has been criticized as a disservice to people living with disabilities who feel that food shortage is the least of their worries in a society that is not so inclusive when it comes to policy interventions, as they yearn for empowerment programmes which bring about sustainable livelihoods.
Speaking during a Public Finance Management Reform Indaba organised by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development in Mutare, Gweru and Bulawayo to review the 2020 Budget, people living with disabilities representatives said that the government’s commitment to issue free food handouts to them is not empowering enough. “People living with disabilities cannot live as charity beneficiaries from their government. The proposed free food handouts do not create a self-sufficient citizen, it is not empowering enough. We need initiatives that can make us do something for a living,” remarked Mr Chamunorwa Ringisai, a Mutare resident living with a disability. He added that the government must stop viewing them as objects of charity rather embrace them as people who are active members of the society.
On the same note, Ms Audrey Rusike from the Quadriplegic and Paraplegic Association of Zimbabwe based in Gweru argued that people living with disabilities are not comfortable with the government providing handouts because in most cases free benefits comes with strings attached. “We don’t want handouts; we need empowerment programmes which transform us into independent individuals. We cannot rely on handouts because they come with conditionalities. What if the government wakes up one day and set uncomfortable conditions for one to qualify for the free food handouts?” She added that, food shortage is one of the many challenges they face, challenges ranging from disability insensitive infrastructure, disability blind transport system and absence of other systems desperately needed to uplift their lives. The need for a comprehensive support framework for people living with disabilities is long overdue.
Persons with disabilities also bemoaned that the national budget processes crowd them out as the Parliament is not doing enough to cater for their specific needs for them to effectively participate in economic governance. Examples were drawn from how the pre-budget consultations are done in venues not accessible to PWDs. Apart from them having been in most cases, excluded from the consultations, the national budget documents are not produced in braille for instance to ensure that those who are visually impaired access them. These shortcomings could be some of the reasons why the 2020 Budget has offered piecemeal solutions to the sector. There is therefore need for the government of Zimbabwe to honour the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which calls for governments to view persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
Despite the 2020 Budget Statement asserting a departure from the austerity measures, some sections of the society however, strongly feel that their aspirations were not catered for, with, especially, people living with disabilities disappointedly feeling that there is nothing for them in the Budget. ZIMCODD is conducting Public Finance Management Reform Indabas providing a platform for citizens to review the 2020 Budget. Having engaged citizens on the national budget processes during the pre-2020 National Budget period, ZIMCODD saw it fit to go back to the people and help them understand key highlights of the 2020 budget as well as providing a platform for them to reflect on the budget. ZIMCODD roped in the Parliament of Zimbabwe Budget Office for them to share with citizens, outcomes of the 2020 Budget consultations. Parliament Budget Office Director, Mr Pepukai Chivore said that, of the 366 recommendations submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development during a Pre- Budget Seminar held recently in Victoria Falls, only 89 were taken on board. Queried on why Parliament is failing to cover as many citizens as possible during budget consultations, Mr Chivore highlighted that the Parliament is incapacitated to cover the whole country due to resource constraints. He also highlighted that pathetic attendance of the consultations is also attributable to the Parlaiment failing to mobilise citizens whilst giving an assurance that Parliament will cascade down the consultations from provincial level to district level and utilize the district structures to mobilise people.