In celebrating the Disability Awareness Month, Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, in his quest to mainstream issues affecting people with disabilities, was invited as #TuesdayTakeover guest presenter by SAFM on Tuesday evening. He then invited two fashion brand owners, Thabo Dube, founder of Letz Clothing in Cape Town, and Masingita Masunga, of abOVEnormal fitness gear in Johannesburg. The show ran from 20h00 to 21h00 to celebrate the success stories of these two trailblazers who are rising against all odds. The following is an edited version of the show:
Songezo Mabece (SM): Bonjour. And that’s as far as my French goes. The time is 13 minutes after the hour 20 this evening. It’s Tuesday the 8th of November and we all know what that means here on SAFM viewpoint. It’s the #TuesdayTakeOver. Not long from now you will be sitting with somebody else on the microphone engaging on issues that I could never, certainly not as deeply and as well as all the guests who ever come here as the takeover hosts can do. So greetings from all us. And I thank you so much for your time and we hope that for the next two hours we’re gonna be enthralling each other in rigorous debates. Disability rights advocate is in studio, Mr Saul Molobi, good evening. Thank you so much for joining us.
Saul Molobi (SM): Good evening and good evening to the SAFM listeners.
Songezo Mabece (SM): There is no doubt and we’re gonna talk about your profile not long from now. There is no doubt whatever the legislation says, whatever the policy says, whatever the best intentions out there may be. In reality, the final analysis as to the rights of persons with disabilities and they dos are falling woefully short to what they should be. I’m not a person with a disability, but I can just imagine for instance, if I didn’t have a particular organ of my body or the use of my senses, how much more difficult it would be if I engage how South Africa’s frameworks and structures and infrastructures are. They assume everybody is not a person with a disability. I could be wrong and perhaps that’s where you can correct me, but I think I’m right.
Saul Molobi (SM): You are very right. But the main battle filled is your mind. First you have to accept, as a person who has become disabled, is your condition and once you have accepted your condition, then you are able to challenge all the difficulties that will be thrown at you. And yes, it’s extremely difficult, it’s an uphill battle. You start with your family; your relatives; your friends; your colleagues if you are working or your clients if you are owning a business; and ultimately your community, your country, your continent, and the entire world. But once your mind is tuned to deal with all these challenges, then I would say you have won the battle over the immediate hell you’ve been cast into and thereafter it’ll just be plain sailing. There are so many negative stereotypes to an extent that people will even equate your physical disability, to a large extent, to mental handicap. Even though mental handicap, is also a disability in itself. With me, I only became disabled in 2016. In November, I suddenly collapsed and woke up fully paralyzed for seven months
Songezo Mabece (SM): Fully?
Saul Molobi (SM): Yes. Fully paralyzed from the neck down. The only mobility I had was my mouth because I could speak and my eyes I could blink, but that was it, fully paralyzed. And people will say I was a cabbage and I would say no, it’s an insult to a cabbage because I know my mother cooks cabbage very well…
(they both laugh)
Songezo Mabece (SM): What was happening?
Saul Molobi (SM): I was worse than the cabbage. So I was just lying there motionless for seven months.
Songezo Mabece (SM): Well you walked in here, you walked in the studio here unaided. Sure there might be a bit of a limp in your movement.
Saul Molobi (SM): Sure, my condition is called Gillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). Fortunately, it has 70% chance of recovery. And then I told myself after the doctors had shared with me the diagnosis, I was going to be one of the 70%; and they also said there’s a 3% recurrence rate. Yeah. Then I said I won’t be part of that.
Songezo Mabece (SM): 3%? You’re going to be part of the 97.
Saul Molobi (SM): Yes. And it affects over 150 000 across the world.
Songezo Mabece (SM): How did you find yourself in that position? Is it something that you have done? Is it lifestyle, is it hereditary or were you just simply, frankly unlucky, tell us more about the disease.
Saul Molobi (SM): Yeah, basically I don’t want to say I was unlucky. I was the lucky one because only 150 000 special people across the world get this condition. It just struck without even knocking because I was just normal and it suddenly just happened. But the problem is that because it is only affecting 150 000 people, it’s a small market for the pharmaceutical industry. So they’re not investing in its research. And how they describe it is that your immune system destroys the sheath around your nerves and as a result there’s a disconnection between all your nerves. And for instance, if you want to raise your hand, that message doesn’t get communicated to the hand. And as a result, then the hand can’t move because it didn’t get the message.
Songezo Mabece (SM): It doesn’t get the instruction.
Saul Molobi (SM): And as a result, then because it’s a small market, there is no research into it. The only recourse for it is physiotherapy and occupational therapy. So the therapists have to stretch your muscles so that your nerves get reactivated and it’s extremely, extremely painful. But then I told myself, I’m going to endure the pains so that I become part of the 70%. In fact, even now I do get spasms and I do stretch myself every day. For instance, if you look at my right hand because I use it more often, it’s recovering much faster than my left hand because I don’t use it as much. But then I need a personal trainer to come in to stretch me and I always say to people I’m not a masochist so I can’t inflict pain on myself. So I need a personal trainer to come and inflict pain on me. And usually on the weekends when I get spasms then my daughter will ask: “Uncle hurt you? He caused you pain?” Then I’d just say: Yeah.
(they both laugh)
Songezo Mabece (SM): We might laugh about it now, but my goodness, gracious me, the things we take for granted. Well if you hadn’t guessed it up until now, you certainly will know now we are talking-all-things-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities and certainly this conversation henceforth will be moderated by one such guest who has just given an account of his journey with his health and disability rights advocate after this very short commercial break. It’s the #TuesdayTakeOver. Please call, please participate, please engage and please be prepared somewhat to even get uncomfortable. It is important
Saul Molobi (SM): Good evening once again. It’s an honour for me to be given this opportunity to host two amazing people. We’ve opened this show with a song titled “Thaba Bosiu” by Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse. The reason is because our theme is “the best view comes after the hardest climb” . These are the two people who have climbed the highest mountains. And I mean this, both figuratively and also literally especially since one of my guests tonight who has submitted Kilimanjaro… they’ve defied all the odds to be where they are today. So whilst we are celebrating the Disability Awareness Month, we are not going to wallow in pity to complain about all the challenges we are facing. But today we are going to celebrate our achievements as people with disabilities. With me I have woman who runs a fashion label called abOVEnormal. Hello Masingita Masunga.
Masingita Masunga (MM): Hello.
Saul Molobi (SM): And the second guest who is in Cape Town and is joining us through the line is Thabo Dube who runs a bag producing brand called Letz. Hey Thabo, how are you my chief?
Thabo Dube (TD): Hello, I am fine.
Saul Molobi (SM): After how long?
Thabo Dube (TD): Yes, it’s been a very long time indeed. It’s great for me to reconnect with you again,
Saul Molobi (SM): I want your inspirational stories to send the message to people out there to say that it’s possible that you may conquer all the challenges that life can throw at you. And I’m also going to invite our listeners to call us on 086302032 or they may even leave their voicenotes on 061 410 4107. You are on SAFM. Okay, Masingita, let me start with you because you are here with me. Tell us about your journey.
Masingita Masunga (MM): Well I think I’ll try to summarize it. I got my disability during the birth process. There were delays in bringing the oxygen tank to the maternity ward and when there’s no flow of oxygen to the brain for a second of a minute, it causes a brain damage. So I always remind people that when they see or hear me doing crazy things, they must understand that I am brain damaged. So yeah, fortunately for me, my parents were advised at a very early age that I seem to be very articulate in talking but my handwriting was very bad – as a result, I failed my matric twice because they couldn’t make sense of what I have written. I only passed on third attempt after I was giving an opportunity for an oral examination.
Saul Molobi (SM): Okay, let’s hold it there and we bring in Thabo to also introduce himself briefly to our listeners. You are on SAFM and thank you for joining us.
Thabo Dube (TD): Thank you. I’m here. My name is Thabo, I’m based in Cape Town. I am the founder and owner of a leather bag brand called Letz, produced in Cape Town. I am a man with a disability. I lost a leg in a very terrifying life-threatening accident in 2013. I was confined to wheelchair and I stayed in hospital for almost two years because I also had brain injuries and I think it was a miracle that I’m working now, but it took me three years to be mobile again and start walking. But I’m so proud of myself right now because of work I do. I’m really, really happy with my condition or my situation because it has taught me a lot in life. Some days don’t come easy, some days don’t come hard, but here I am still standing.
Saul Molobi (SM): So it’s our life, bro.
Thabo Dube (TD): It’s a situation which I will never run away from. I have to learn to live with it and I think I am, I’m stronger than I was when I was still on a wheelchair for all those years. And I had to fight really, really hard to be mobile because I used to play sports – rugby, to be precise. I was determined to be the next Springbok player (the national rugby team). I always wanted to be a Springbok. When I lost my leg, to me that was losing a dream. My whole world was just shattered and I struggled with suicidal thoughts and attempts over the years, but I’m still alive and I’m living. Thank you God.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you, Masingita. I think because I know your story very well, I spend most of my better times with you, perhaps let’s jump to when you were doing matric. What were the challenges you experienced?
Masingita Masunga (MM): Yeah. Yeah. I think it was more like history repeating itself, because I again, failed matric, same story. They didn’t see my handwriting so I failed matric twice. I only passed after they allowed somebody to transcribe the answers I recited to them. And that’s when I decided that me and school were never friends.
Saul Molobi (SM): But I’m glad that you have made it to this far. Perhaps let’s go into your professional life.
Masingita Masunga (MM): After passing metric and deciding that I wanted nothing to do really with school, I started organising a beauty pageant that I called “Miss Confidence South Africa”, which was a beauty patient for women with physical disabilities. The whole idea was to show that even though we may have disabilities, we do have a lifestyle. We are in individuals and we do like things like any other woman because there is a stereotype and a stigma attached to disability as if we are not as human as other people. And as women, sometimes we are really treated like we are inferior to other women or we’re always in a group comprised of only people with disabilities, but we do have the lifestyle that is not confined by our disability. And then after 10 years because of lack of support and lack of back up, I put “Miss Confidence” project on hold and I went into TV where I hosted and produced my own TV show, a talk show on social issues, which I did for six years. And then after that in 2020 I had another TV show that focuses on leadership called “Advantage Point”.
Saul Molobi (SM): What inspires this confidence in you?
Masingita Masunga (MM): I think my personality but also my background. I was never treated as a child with a disability from a young age. I remember when I was growing up, I didn’t know that I had a disability until I went to a special school. So even when we were playing, I would influence my friends to change the rules of the game so that it can accommodate me. I didn’t know that I had a disability, we didn’t know that. We just knew that there are things that I’m not able to do like the other kids. But I think the fact that at home I was never actually treated like a child with disability as a first born girl child, I was expected to do household chores and all the other things that all girl children my age had to do. So I think it comes from those different factors.
Saul Molobi (SM): Okay, let’s bring Thabo back into the conversation. Yes, tell us after you became disabled what situation confronted you and what did you do to be where you are today?
Thabo Dube (TD): Yeah, so basically life changed after matric. I had both legs. I was inspired by my role models. I really had big dreams until matric. I lost a year when I took a gap year. I was one of the highest performers in the province in the Western Cape, I did not really know how I can go and pursue my ambitions and dreams or to study at a university. Then I got a job thinking I could go to a university the next year. It was one Friday evening, five days before my birthday, coming from work. I was riding on my motorbike. I can’t remember what happened because all I recall was seeing very bright lights approaching me.
Saul Molobi (SM): That’s scary.
Thabo Dube (TD): Then it was an accident and I woke up after a few days from a coma. I stayed in hospital for a year and a few months. I went to both Memorial Hospital for almost a year or so, then I spent a few more months at the Atlanta Health Rehabilitation Centre. My life completely changed in those three years. When I went to hospital, people were still using Blackberry and there was something called BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). So I didn’t just lose my cellphone in that accident, I also I lost my leg – I was amputated.
Saul Molobi (SM): And how did you feel?
Thabo Dube (TD): I was grateful I didn’t lose my life. I’m still alive and I’m a better person than I was before with all the responsibilities that I’ve come to assume. And sometimes life always throws you lemons. At one point when I was struggling to find something to eat because I’ve always been an independent person, even when I did matric, I was staying by myself, I was forced to go to the traffic lights to at least beg for a little bit of coins so that I can buy fish, chips and sausages. Some days I’d gone for almost two days without eating. Not that there wasn’t anybody who was willing to help me, but it was in my nature. I just thought I can always do everything for myself. Sometimes you need to get up and fight to get what you want. You cannot allow a situation to define you. I am greater than my my situation. Okay? I am the star of my own ship. Yeah, I am the pilot of my plane. So from that I started to come with ideas. It took me a very long time because I was always at home. I was now unemployed so I was renting at this other people’s house who were based overseas but they were selling that house where as soon as I got back home, it was in a market. So they said to me, I can stay for free. Just look after the house and open for people who were coming to view until the house gets sold. Thank God, God’s plans are always good. It took them almost a year and a half to sell it. So I stayed for that whole period without a job and without paying rent.
Saul Molobi (SM): Okay, hold it right there for now. By the way, Songezo is busy enjoying some of my mother’s cabbage. Yes, I brought him some cabbage from my home village, Hammanskraal. So I will be keeping you my dear listener company until 21h00 with my two guests, Masingita and Thabo. I invite you my dearest listener call us to ask my guests any question you may want them to answer. So in the meantime, Masingita, please tell us about your brand.
Masingita Masunga (MM): Well I think abOVEnormal was my way of coming back to what I’ve always been about: looks, feelings, beauty and all of that. So being a fitness brand that does it in different ways was me saying to the world: Well look, I’m back. (laughs) Yeah. And I’ve always been that girl who loves to look good, who loves to feel good, who loves I know, but can pay attention and yeah, I guess I do. But it was also because we come from the COVID-19 situation in which wellness and fitness became a big issue and so was its affordability. So we created a brand that can give people fitness while looking good and feeling good in a very affordable way.
Saul Molobi (SM): Okay, thank you so much. We have a call from “G” in Johannesburg. You are welcome, “G”. How are you?
“G”: I’m alright. Thank you very much for putting this show together – it’s number one. And good evening to the lady, Masingita, and Thabo. Look, I think we just…. (Irritating sound in the background.
Saul Molobi (SM): Please switch off your radio “G”.
“G”: Okay, thank you so much. I should switch it off?
Saul Molobi (SM): Yes, sir…
“G”: Can you hear me now?
Saul Molobi (SM): Now we can hear you loud and clear.
“G”: So I was saying, I’m listening to the story here and it’s really touching the world, the confidence, the guest, guest lady, just the way she’s explaining the story, what the confidence that she has, what taught her to do all of those that she has done. She says she did the pageants, disability awareness campaigns, confidence, and then she went to television presenting. It’s not quite easy for anyone to just do these things while knowing you have a disability and in a place where people with two legs who can speak nicely are judging you on these things you’re doing. And I want to encourage them, I want to encourage everyone to try it, let’s spread the word and then treat people with disabilities with that respect that everyone deserves. I wanna give you God’s heads up and I wanna say that God bless you, bless you so, so much. May, whatever that you do, you get good sponsors, you get good people that’s gonna come onboard and then take this thing further. God bless you so, so much. You inspired me and then I know life can happen to all of us at any time maybe you didn’t know, didn’t plan to lose your leg, but it does. It did happen. So God bless you and let all of us treat these guys not as a second class citizens, but with respect as human beings. Thank you so much
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you so much for your call “G”. Let’s bring in Zach from Devon.
Zach: Hello. I’m a blind person. I have been very successful, but I have heard everyone that is on this program and I have been hugely encouraged and inspired and I want to say let us go ahead and show this world of people without disabilities that we will conquer this world.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you for your short, sweet and a very empowering message. We now have Albert on the line from Krugersdorp. Good evening sir.
Albert: Good, Good evening, Saul.
I am here in Krugersdorp. I grew up here. I worked in the workshops as a sighted person. Went on holiday in 1965 during my leave month. I was then involved in a car accident outside the place where a casino is at the moment, but then it was a sports ground. But on that corner where a collision happened, three people died. I was on a backseat behind the driver and I sat in the middle. During the collision, the impact moved me to hit the impact, the windscreen with my head, and I suffered severe cuts across my face. I lost both of my eyes and I was blinded at the age of 19. I lost my job, lost everything, I had to start life all over again as a blind person. I went to a night school for the blind. I did a course in braille, and s technical course.
I got married in 1971. I have two daughters and my wife is still alive and I am absolutely blessed just to say that if you are in whatever situation and you can get up and do it, just do it. I just got up and I just did it. It’s pointless to sit down and do nothing. There’s nothing to it. I’m still busy sometimes. I’m now 77 years old. I’ve been blind for 55 or 57 years and I’m blessed. God has blessed me to also bless other people that are not handicapped, but they can see that you can get over it and carry on with your life. Thank you very much indeed for getting me on the discussion. It was very nice listening to you people and for everybody listening. My message to all is that if you have a handicap, get up and just do what you have to. If you don’t do it yourself, nobody will really care. But the moment you start doing something positive, you’ll be amazed how people will support you.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you very much Albert. We have now have Cecil from East London.
Cecil: I just want to say thank you ever so much. This is amazing, blessings to us all. God bless you all folks. You are so wonderful. Thank you so much.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you, Cecil. Now Thabo, please tell us about your Letz brand.
Thabo Dube (SM): Yes. My brand, Letz, is an acronym, it means “live every day to the end where the end is”. I actually started this brand when I had run out of options. It was a bit difficult to survive at that time. I had never been a businessperson before. I had never, yes, I used to work partyimely as a student. So I had a talent of selling, of just selling stuff. So my first thought was to start small and build higher. So I used to have a friend who had a car who would pick me up and drop me off at malls. Then I would approach shops such as Mr. Price and ask for French t-shirts, which are at the back stock. They were not selling really. And I would try good deals like buy t-shirts, plain T-shirts at a very low cost. And then I, I’ll print on them with a T-shirt like with the imprint: “Who needs a leg?”
Saul Molobi (SM): That’s very ingenious and yet funny.
Thabo Dube (SM): Thank you. My first stock was 100 T-shirts. Within a week I had sold almost 80 t-shirts to normal people who weren’t disabled, but they were highly supportive. I gained confidence that if you stand up, if your eyes are above the sea, if you can turn lemons into a lemonade, then everyone else will come and support you. Yes, during that time I had lots of skepticism and doubt. I would think that people are looking at me in a very bad way. I was still trying to get used to my new self, but the way people supported me from those hundred T-shirts, then I started to do leather work, which I was taught by my grandparents when I was very young. But that time when I was young I thought it was a very useless thing. I did not really want to, I felt like they were forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do, but my late grandma told me that one day in life this was to be handy. And up until today, I have a very good company with a number people I have employed. We are doing quality leather products, customized stock according to customer wishes. And we have an online store. We have a bricks-and-mortar shop called Cochlear at a Peco and we are distributing internationally. I am so grateful that I was taught this skill and at a later stage it came in handy. And today I have a very good business of quality leather-made products.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you Thabo. And thank you dearest listener for tuning in. I’ll just piggyback on the construct of confidence that Masingita spoke about. After I returned to my full-time job, my friends and my colleagues were doubting me and some were even doubtful that I still had the mental capacity to be able to deal with the stresses that my position then demanded. And at one stage, in fact, I was beginning to believe in their doubtfulness and for me to boost my confidence, I decided to develop a PhD proposal that I sent to three universities and the University of Northampton came back and the admission panel of three professors interviewed me and I defended my PhD proposal and they accepted me to register for a four Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2019. And that gave me the confidence that I was about to lose. And then I said if three university professors didn’t doubt my mental capacity, who else should?
And in July 2020 I went on my own, joined on full time basis my company, Brandhill Africa – it’s a marketing agency and as we speak I was nominated twice by the World CEO Rankings Board as “The World CEO of the Year 2020” and also this year. And the company, Brandhill Africa, was recognised with the “The Best Brand Award” at the “Brand Leadership Awards 2021” hosted by the World Brand Congress. So ultimately, if you have a disability, you have to get the inner strength within you so that you could be able to deal with all the negative stereotypes that you are facing as a person with a disability.
Now Masingita, what’s your plan for the future?
Masingita Masunga (MM): The one thing about me is that I am a mystery to myself. I take life as it is. But I wanna speak to the issue of confidence and being judged and not to only from disability point of view. The reality is people will judge you no matter what. And having a disability has given me the confidence to deal with situations in which I’m prejudiced. All I know is that whether I do it or don’t do it, I would still be judged. So I might as well do it and then rise above them and perform beyond average.
Saul Molobi (SM): That’s wonderful, Masingita. Your parting shot Thabo? What does the future hold for you, particularly for your brand?
Thabo Dube (SM): Yes. At this point in time, the future’s looking very bright. I’m working relentlessly to expand the brand. I’m aiming for the stars, I’m growing the brand as we are speaking. Also, I would like to be not just a public figure, but a voice for people with disabilities. It is not easy to live with a disability. I’ve experienced it, I’m still experiencing it. If you are not very confident, if you are not that strong at heart, you may end up losing focus because sometimes you look at yourself, you undermine yourself, which in turn makes you not achieve the best that you can do. But as long as you can, you have a brain, you don’t even need both legs or both arms as long as you can think of something. So in my way I know that people with a disability are really struggling. We are struggling as people with a disabilities from prejudice and many other forms of exclusions. Not being able to run things like that or walk in the morning, is not easy. But I wish to be an ambassador of such people and to give them strength and hope.
Saul Molobi (SM): Thank you. In the interest of time, I will just pop in to say that spending 12 months in hospital, I used my free time to write a book, “Sounds and Fury: The Chronicles of Healing”, which we launched in 2020. And two weeks ago I produced my second book which is titled “De/constructing brand Africa: A Practitioner’s Perspective”. Thank you very much. We are now going into the news. Thank you for tuning in. Greg Gouws is on the line waiting to give us the latest news.
Songezo Mabece (SM): Thank you very much Greg Gouws with the news at 21h00 and it certainly has been a fascinating first hour and it got me thinking a bit, it really did. The conversation that Erfa and I had in the production room, the conversation I’ve just had within Saul as well. It really is about, first of all, just to appreciate the fact that Saul you have come here to engage a critical topic, bringing in the guests that you have to engage the topic with. I was wanted to ask you in the first hour, but I just ran out of time, and the question would’ve been: What is that one thing that you wish persons like me able-bodied, full faculties and all don’t think about disability other than me not having to talk about disability. And then the minute I’m done, yeah, I just move on with my life. The concept of disability is foreign to me simply because I don’t experience it and nobody in my circle is fortunately living with a disability. But what is it that coming from the community of persons with disabilities, do you wish people like me knew would do, would not do, would think about, would not consider, give us a sense as to how we should locate the conversation within our system?
Missing it as well. Please contribute to that. I mean, I’m asking that to solve the question, but I’m really trying to extract, here’s why. Sorry, one more comment. I’m listening to the profile of the callers. For instance this evening, I don’t recall ever engaging a majority of these callers…
And I express my appreciation to them for making these calls because it clearly means there was a win in this conversation with yourselves on the %TuesdayTakeOver. But beyond that, how do we ensure our conversations bring in more people as opposed to remain somewhat exclusive by the chance encounter of this conversation? Only then do they form part of the mainstream? Where is it that our conversation is going wrong? What is it that I should know, empower me really. And of course, this is open to the causes as well, particularly from the community of persons with disabilities. That is all.
Saul Molobi (SM): I’ll give you an example, because I’m an author, about children’s literature. Someone once said, the problem with children’s literature is that it is written by adults for children. It is bought by adults for children. It is chosen by adults for children. And I’m saying that scenario shouldn’t apply to us, especially Saul, who is an adult. So I’m yearning to be recognized as a human being. My disability shouldn’t define who I am. If you are looking at me, you should see a human being and then from there then a disability issue will come in. But we are moving from a society where people with disabilities were often hidden in backrooms so that visitors and the community didn’t see them. When I was growing up, we often knew that in that house there’s a person with disability, but that person wouldn’t be integrated into the society. Now when we talk about mainstreaming issues that affect people with disabilities, we are basically saying we have adopted a slogan that says “nothing about us without us”, so engage us and find out what is it that we want out of this society and what contribution we can make to the advancement of our communities.
And ultimately then your physical disability shouldn’t translate into the perception that you are also mentally unstable. So recognition is key for me and that’s what I’m yearning for.
Songezo Mabece (SM): Yeah. Masingita, your thoughts?
Masingita Masunga (MM): One of the things that I talk about a lot is not only, I don’t call myself a disability activist. I am an activist on different issues because remember I am a black, and I am woman. So there are all these factors that make shape my outlook. So in a country that’s talking transformation because of our history, we are talking exclusive transformation. Disability is not included in the transformation agenda. Black people will talk racism, but they don’t think about the very same hardship imposed by racist exclusions as pertaining to marginalisation based on one’s disability. So when we talk inclusion, it’s selective inclusion. So until we look at disability as part of social cohesion and diversity, like all the other issues, we’re not gonna get anywhere. We’ve got a department of women, youth and people with disabilities, but in most cases when issues are publicly addressed, it’s only youth and women and then disability is excluded. So we need to start having an inclusive transformation process.
Songezo Mabece (SM): How then? I suppose it’s the final question to you. Thank you so much Masingita for that. Now from what you’ve said, from what many of the callers have said, how do we develop a national lexicon if that’s appropriate, a national rhetoric or narrative that aligns with essentially what Masingita has said in relation to, you mentioned the word “mainstreaming” and she’s gone one step further to say all of these things about our transformation, about social development, talking about the issues that remain a stumbling block in the national development. In the broad sense, wholly absent in all of this are the features within which disability sector is one one of them. And I don’t imagine if we had to have a conversation with another interest group, they wouldn’t be just as emphatic in saying they are left out of the mainstreaming of the issues that should form part of the national development plan, national development strategy, how do we develop an acceptable lexicon in our society, visible movements in terms of state resources, private sector resources, the engagements we have with one another where if a person with a disability were to be present or absent, there wouldn’t be a difference in approach.
In other words, how do we engage ourselves in such a way that we are all encompassing that if a person with a disability, if it is a woman, if it is a child, if it is an elderly person, they all find expression in the setup.
Saul Molobi (SM): It’s a change in mindset in the sense that people with disabilities are regarded as a social welfare case. We are not regarded as active economic contributors, then you have the advertisers who are the lifeblood of the media not interested in buying media space that mainstreams issues that are affecting people with disabilities. In this country, we have the most progressive policies regulations, and laws that are meant to protect people with disabilities. We have developed a vocabulary which was developed by people in the sector in consultation with the private sector and government. But in this country, implementation is a problem. And simply because then resources are not made available for the implementation of all our policies, regulations and the laws, we need to enforce our laws. But beyond that, a mass consciousness campaign can only be undertaken if all the societal sectors see value in such a campaign. And in this instance, especially when we are looking beyond just the public service media, but also your commercial media that they should be able to say to the advertising industry, you need to invest in this kind of campaign because it isn’t only good for people with disabilities, but it is important for the society as a whole.
Songezo Mabece (SM): Okay. Very well thank you for that. I appreciate that and I hope that even us, with the production of our shows moving forward, we can even just move the needle one bit. If we move the needle once somebody else is listening, hopefully we’ll be able to move the needle and then slowly then if you like, the movement will gain the groundswell that it is required so that we don’t have what typically has come to be and “us-and-them” approach. Oh, of course there’s, there’s the disability question. So let’s get them in the room to talk to us about their issues. There’s still very much a discord in that engagement because it typifies an engagement that doesn’t contemplate them initially, then they’re not part of the mainstream end. But certainly we do hope that this conversation will certainly for us here on the production side of things, be able to just prick our consciousness in the right direction and hopefully the callers who have made the calls as they have and given expression to their experiences.
Well, for the balance of this show and for all other shows, to keep us honest and in check and to say so as we haven’t had a conversation about this or did you know that it is this awareness month? Or let’s have a conversation about these issues or embedded in what you guys are talking about, there’s a nuanced matter of persons living with disabilities who then have a very different experience to whatever it is that we’ll be talking about. I think in that way, certainly I opened myself up to be engaged, I wouldn’t say interrogated, but certainly engaged and kept honest. But with what you have said, certainly it’s enough to get us going and we can only thank you for that. That is all.
Saul Molobi (SM): But also to say thank you for this opportunity and also to say to people with disabilities that freedom and empowerment will never be given to you on a silver platter. It is a struggle and, consciously so, we have to engage in the struggle to ensure that not only government or the private sector, but everyone in our society begin to recognize our existence and the need for us to be empowered like everybody else is striving to be empowered.
Songezo Mabece (SM): Fantastic. The time is 21h19. Very extended gratitude to Saul for a wonderful conversation. Saul is many things and I’m certainly not gonna call him an activist. He’s a business person, he’s an academic, among other things, he engages in activism. Thanks as well to you, Masingita and Thabo on the line. Thanks to everybody who participated in this disability conversation really for the last hour and 20 minutes. We move on now after the short commercial break with the global watch conversation with Ms. Joanna in the United States, Washington, specifically to talk to us about what is happening in the US mid-term elections after the break. We are on that.