On 7th July 2014, SAFOD held a meeting with one of the prominent founders of the organisation, a veteran disability activist and scholar, Mr. Joshua Malinga. The meeting was held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Mr. Malinga shared with the SAFOD Director General his thoughts and tips on how to ensure the effective revival of the organisation. The discussions centered on capacity building of affiliates’ leadership; the need to form a disability “think tank” to advise SAFOD on key disability issues; SAFOD networking strategies with other civil society organisations (CSOs), and the specific leadership challenges being faced by some SAFOD national affiliates.
During the meeting, Mr. Malinga expressed gratitude that Mr. Chiwaula had been able to spare some time to meet his “old friend” and discuss issues pertaining to SAFOD.
Mr. Malinga expressed sadness that it was ironical that the disability movement seemed to be so strong at United Nations level, but so weak at pan-Africa and SADC levels.
Mr. Malinga, however, took solace in the fact that Mr. Chiwaula had been appointed Director General at the very opportune time when the disability movement that once used to make its voice felt the Southern Africa region needed boost. He described the appointment of Mr. Chiwaula as refreshing, and that it would give hope to the region.
He said the disability movement in the region was facing unique challenges as “disability” was not just a human rights issue but also a political one. He said people working in the disability sector need to understand the politics of disability.
Mr. Malinga, who is currently lecturing a Degree Course in Disability at Gweru University, proposed that SAFOD needs to develop intensive training programmes for disability leaders in the region. In his own words, he said “we need to do what SAFOD used to do years back.”
When asked by Mr. Chiwaula what kind of SAFOD would he like to see, Mr. Malinga responded that he would like to see an institution that poised to empower leaders of national federations in the region.
He noted that currently most of the leaders of DPOs were no longer powerful as was the case in the past. He reasoned that when the current leadership leaves power, they would not create vacuum if they were well trained and empowered.
He said “disability” is an evolving concept, so too ought to be SAFOD.
At regional level, Mr. Malinga proposed that SAFOD needs to be more proactive on networking with other civil society organisations (CSOs), even with those that are not in disability per se, but deal with human rights in general. He noted, “currently we seem to work outside the CSO movement hence we face challenges to raise our issues.”
Another proposal Mr. Malinga made was that SAFOD needs to push for a disability protocol at SADC level. He, however, expressed delight that coincidentally the new SAFOD Secretariat was already working on this proposal.
Finally,Mr. Malinga proposed that SAFOD needs to select a few prominent in the disability sector to form he termed “A Group of Advisers” or “Think Tank” to advise the SAFOD leadership on voluntary basis on various developmental issues pertaining to disability mainstreaming at SADC level.