The deputy minister responsible for disability affairs in the presidency says persons living with disabilities should not be paraded as charity cases and that she would never wish for people with her disabilities, like herself, to be institutionalised.
Alexia Manombe-Ncube spoke to New Era following media reports that claimed she said people with disabilities who beg on the streets should be taken to reserve areas, as they are embarrassing government. Manombe-Ncube received a negative backlash on social media and through newspaper SMSes, which questioned her suitability to represent people with disabilities.
Responding to questions posted to her, Manombe-Ncube said: “It would appear… that I may have suggested that people with disabilities begging on the street must be taken to the reserves to spare government the embarrassment, which in fact denotes institutionalisation of people with disabilities, something that I have been always condemned,” Manombe-Ncube explained.
“It could be deduced from the [reports] that government’s stance was to create dependency amongst people with disabilities from various grants offered to them.”
Manombe-Ncube says she was misquoted on the subject whether government established various disability resources centres to compliment the efforts of people with disabilities in gaining extra income. She says instead of “resources centre”, she was wrongly quoted as saying “reserves”.
She also indicated that some derogatory language was used in the reports, which amount to a violation of the rights of people with disabilities. She maintained, for example, that people with disabilities have their own preferred terminology, which should be used to describe such people as persons with disabilities – and not as handicapped.
“In response to the statement by Charles Mubita in the New Era of June 10, 2016, I could not agree more with his proposition that Namibians with disabilities are not second-class citizens. And certainly government is not there to create welfare or charity, but I am certainly not in agreement with his analogy that government’s understanding of disability issues are perceived in terms of charity.”
She says government is driving an agenda in keeping with major trends advanced by leading local and international agencies, who advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. This, Manombe-Ncube, stressed informed her decision to speak out against the parading of her “fellow countrymen with disabilities as charity cases at public places”.
“It is my resolve as a deputy minister mandated to coordinate issues of disability in the country to appeal to my compatriots living in this land of the brave to denounce the notion of treating people with disabilities as objects of pity and charity, who can only complement their income through hand-outs as beggars.”
She added that people with disabilities should be treated as human beings, who can contribute immensely to the development of the country. According to Manombe-Ncube, they also deserve opportunities for self-development and to be treated equally as citizens.
“We don’t need the public’s pity and sympathy. We demand respect and recognition as equal citizens.” She also urged the local community to seek understanding about persons with disabilities in order to provide adequate resources for such people.
It is her view that empowerment drives should aim to provide economic, social and political power to every Namibian, regardless of social status: “Let’s embrace the spirit of Harambee, that requires us to pull together in one direction.”
She also explained that her office is newly established and constructive suggestions aimed at improving service delivery are welcome.
Giving her own account as a person with a disability, Manombe-Ncube said her pronouncements on the subject are not related to things she read in books or heard from other people, but rather on personal experience. This is because she knows no other life than one with disability, she noted.
“At an individual level I have been a staunch activist throughout my life, fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. As a girlchild with disabilities I had to endure all manner of turmoil and discrimination associated with gender issues at the time.”
“In addition to that, society viewed me as an outcast. Despite all this I… forged ahead to remain an active member in the mainstream of all aspects of life. I stood for promoting respect and the inherent dignity of people with disabilities.”
She said she fought for the right to a decent life, education, employment and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, among others, adding that government continues to provide safety nets for all citizens, including people with disabilities, while the increased disability grant is a way of providing improved social protection – one of the key national goals to eradicate poverty.