I’ve just finished watching the funeral for Nelson Mandela. I’ve followed all the coverage closely over the last 10 days. South Africa is country dear to my heart, not only because of my involvement in the Anti-Apartheid movement, but because my adopted daughter, a Zulu, was born there.
Mandiba was a remarkable man, who with others transformed his country and gave it one of the most non-discriminatory constitutions in the world. So, in that wonderful rainbow nation where were the disabled people? As I watched the crowds in Pretoria outside Mandiba’s home, the thousands at the football stadium, the hundreds queuing to view his body and those who lined the route his coffin travelled to Qunu yesterday, I did not see one physically disabled person.
I asked my daughter, who is currently in South Africa with her sons, if she has seen disabled people on any of the local footage. She told me she’d only seen one person who was in the queue at Mandiba’s lying in state.
Because I was uncertain about writing this particular blog, I also sought advice from my daughter, a woman wise beyond her years. She told me the facilities in South Africa for disabled people are not good, that disabled people are not as respected as they should be. That the authorities think that just because they provide a couple of disabled parking bays, an extra accessible loo and some ramps they have done enough.
It seems as if not everyone is equal, despite the constitution (and I’m not just talking about the huge inequalities of wealth and opportunity that still exist). For disabled people, South Africa is rather like the UK was before the DDA was made law. I’m sure that they would be many experienced disabled people in the UK who would willingly give help and advice to the South African government and other powerful organisations to help disabled South Africans play a greater role in their country.
I would be honoured to be part of that.