Premier Helen Zille Receives Memorandum from Disability Group
On Tuesday, 20 March, Premier Helen Zille received a memorandum submitted by the disability service and advocacy group, Cape Mental Health, calling for the recognition and realisation of the human rights of persons with intellectual disability ahead of Human Rights Day (21 March).
Citing that approximately 2% of the population comprised persons with an intellectual disability, the memorandum highlights the need for appropriate and accessible mental healthcare for these persons. The memorandum notes that "South Africa has made great strides in policy and legislation with respect to the principle of inclusion of people with disabilities" however "despite the promulgation of these laws and the adoption of policies, people with intellectual disability are still being discriminated against".
Premier Zille addressed the assembled group from Cape Mental Health, undertaking to do "the very, very best that we can to ensure that everybody has access to equal rights. Please be sure that I'm taking this very seriously indeed. It is in my heart that every single person enjoys their full rights and live a life they value". She highlighted that the government has limited means to address many needs and that the government's job would be easier if society succeeded in drastically reducing the burden of preventable disease.
"We must start spending much more money on the diseases and conditions that people can't prevent and disability is one of those conditions. It will take an effort from all quarters of society, driven by strategic partnerships, to tackle the social ills that both contribute to the incidence of disability and drain resources away from service provision to support unpreventable disability. The only way to make things better is by tackling these problems together," she said.
Turning to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), she stated that even within the disability sector, prevention is a key weapon to reduce the burden of disease: "The Western Cape and the Northern Cape have the highest incidences of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world. If women drink while they're pregnant, they damage their babies' brains which results in intellectual impairment and we must prevent that. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is 100% preventable." According to the Cape Mental Health memorandum, an estimated 40% of cases of intellectual disability are preventable.
The memorandum will be studied by the Human Rights Advocateur in the Office of the Premier in order to make recommendations to Premier Zille on how to address them and to refer points raised in it to relevant departments in the Western Cape Government.