Zimbabwe is on the cusp of becoming the first Southern African country to ratify the African Disability Protocol (ADP) but action is needed to push it across the finish line.

This is why today (October 29), Sightsavers’ Equal World Campaign, in partnership with the African Union and the African Disability Forum, is urging governments and leaders to adopt the protocol and ensure the rights of people with disabilities are upheld.

The human rights protocol addresses forms of discrimination that specifically impact people with disabilities living in Africa. It supplements the provisions of the existing African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Zimbabwe could lead the way. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare must bring the proposed protocol before Parliament and debate if it is necessary to ratify the international instrument.

Once approved by Parliament the protocol then goes through the scrutiny of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for approval. Once approved the protocol can be signed and ratified simultaneously by the President.

Peter Bare, Country Director for Sightsavers in Zimbabwe said: “We are so close to making this critical step forward in protecting the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic are prioritised and protected.

NASCOH, Acting Director Henry Masaya added that “This treaty is a vital instrument in tackling discrimination and inequality and improving the lives of millions of people with disabilities.

The same was echoed by Deaf Zimbabwe Executive Director Barbara Nyangairi “We are counting on Zimbabwe to step up and take the lead in creating a safer, more accessible Africa.”

The African Disability Protocol was adopted in 2018 by the African Union, to address forms of discrimination affecting people with disabilities living in African countries. It is an additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981) to set standards and promote and protect human rights in Africa. For the protocol to come into force, at least 15 member states must sign and ratify it. So far Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Mali and Rwanda have ratified, and several others are nearly there.

Zimbabwe was one of the first countries in Africa to enact disability legislation in the form of the Disability Persons Act of 1992. Zimbabwe again has the opportunity to continue its legacy as on of the most disability inclusive states in Africa by signing and ratifying the African Disability Protocol.