Minister pushes for disability law
SOCIAL Development Minister ‘Matebatso Doti is keen to pick up from where she left off in 2015 by overseeing enactment of the Disability Equity Bill as well promoting other policy interventions to improve the welfare of the country’s vulnerable groups.
Ms Doti said this in a recent interview with the Lesotho Times and her remarks came against the background of complaints by Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) Director Nkhasi Sefuthi that “Lesotho did not have legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities”.
“As a result, a lot of human rights violations take place all the time,” Sefuthi recently told our sister Sunday Express publication.
“People with disabilities face discrimination and this is happening largely because we lack a clear legal framework to protect and advance their rights.
“At the same time policy makers and government officials do not consider disability as a priority and that poses a big challenge to us because this means that the solutions we are proposing to them will take long to be implemented,” Mr Nkhasi said.
However, this could all change for the better if Ms Doti succeeds in pushing through the Disability Equity Bill which she said was the “answer to all their problems”.
Ms Doti became the first Social Development Minister when the ministry was created during the previous tenure of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane whose first coalition government lasted from 2012 until 2015 when it gave way to the former seven parties’ coalition government that was headed by former premier Pakalitha Mosisili after a snap election that year.
She was reappointed to the post in the aftermath of last month’s snap polls which ushered in a four party government headed by Dr Thabane. The other coalition partners are the Alliance for Democrats, the Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.
And on her return, Ms Doti says she will pick up from where she left off in 2015 by ensuring that the Disability Equity Bill is passed into law to address various challenges confronting people with disabilities.
“I’m the one who kick-started this ministry before we lost power in 2015,” Ms Doti said.
“Now that we are back in charge, I’ve been recalled to the ministry and there’s the Disability Equity Bill which I left in 2015 which I’m told is with the drafting unit in the Ministry of Law.
“The special needs of the disabled are taken care of in that bill and I will push it through as I am confident it will answer all their problems.”
Ms Doti also revealed that she had set herself ambitious targets to improve the general welfare of the vulnerable and underprivileged through among other things, the creation of a vibrant Department of Community Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Small Business Development.
“The vulnerable already receive grants but beyond these safety nets my vision is for this ministry to spearhead their development.
“We need to have a Department of Community Development so that they can be capacitated to start cooperatives and I’m going to work with the Ministry of Small Business.
“When I left the ministry, I had already made arrangements for the social protection policy so I’m going to take it from there.”
She also said they would work to ensure more Basotho adopted children, adding although there were many orphanages, the ideal scenario was for children to be raised in a family set up.
She also revealed that she recently met with development partners who expressed their willingness to continue supporting the ministry’s programmes.
She said as a “ministry of the underprivileged,” she would ensure the ministry had a strong rural presence to reach out to more vulnerable people.
“I want the ministry to move away from the city and operate deep in the villages because despite having so many excellent programmes, the beneficiaries who are mostly in the rural areas do not even know about their existence.
“I will also partner with the Lesotho Times to ensure that more people know about these programmes and get to know more about the ministry which is after all the ministry of the underprivileged,” she said.