New transport minister gives cause to hope for equitable public transport

THE National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) has welcomed the appointment of Dr Blade Nzimande as National Minister of Transport.

The council congratulated Nzimande and President Cyril Ramaphosa on making this appointment, and looked forward to working with Nzimande for an equitable public transport system for South Africans with disabilities.

NCPD national director Therina Wentzel said: “Dr Nzimande has an exemplary track record of working for equity. While he was Minister of Higher Education, he instructed institutions of higher learning to create an environment in which all students – including students with disabilities – could learn and engage.

“His instruction was supported by a budget that enabled institutions to import and apply design solutions to make campuses inclusive for students with disabilities. Dr Nzimande understands the concept of design for all. He has a track record of not paying lip service alone to inclusivity. He is willing to invest in it, too.”

Regrettably, Wentzel said, Nzimande was removed from the higher education ministry before his vision for fully inclusive campuses could be realised. Only a small number of South African higher education institutions are universally inclusive today.

However, as Minister of Transport, Nzimande now has an excellent opportunity to implement changes that will impact enormously – and positively – on persons with disabilities. For example, said Wentzel, NCPD looks forward to the new Minister of Transport taking huge strides forward in nationalising the parking disc for persons with disabilities. This initiative was accepted for implementation in 2009 and gained good momentum. However, it petered out under the administration of former President Jacob Zuma.

In addition, NCPD is hopeful that Dr Nzimande will forge ahead to work with the NCPD and other civil society entities in making public transport across the land equitable.

“Many persons with disabilities are unable to use services such as Gautrain, My City, the Rea Vaya bus service and others. These services had the best of intentions for inclusivity at concept stage. However, they failed persons with disabilities in final implementation. South Africa’s new transport minister has shown that he is cognisant of people’s right to inclusive public services, and we look forward to seeing him apply his now-significant influence in the public transport arena of the land.”

“The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities is fully and completely committed to working with Dr Nzimande and his department to make this happen. We not only welcome this opportunity. We also invite it,” Wentzel concluded.


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