Upcoming Chitungwiza dancehall singer Mike “Micho Bancho” Saujeni just like his peers has ambitions and dreams for his future.He yearns for support to develop his skills and realise his potential.
with Moses Mugugunyeki
The 20-year-old talented chanter is among a myriad of young people with disabilities that constantly face barriers to the enjoyment of their civil liberties with those living in poor families being the hardest hit.
Apart from being robbed of their right to go to school, people with disabilities are often deprived of opportunities to take part in their communities.
Societal stigmatisation brings up feelings of isolation, anxiety, doubt, confusion, humiliation, loneliness and sadness, among many other painful emotions.
However, Saujeni has dusted off societal stigmatisation that would have kept him bed-ridden in dejection as most people with similar conditions would do.
“I believe that I have a talent and I want to show the world that I am gifted,” Saujeni told Standard Style at his family home in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza, last week.
“Because of my condition, my ability to participate in social life has been restricted. I am a talented dancehall singer with over 200 unrecorded songs. I am also a wheelchair basketball player.”
People with disabilities, especially youths, are often overlooked in policymaking, limiting their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic and political life.
According to the World Bank Report (2019), 15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries.
To Saujeni, disability can never be the end of the world, thanks to the support he recently got from the Alfred Dondo Foundation (ADF), a Harare-based charity organisation.
ADF, which is also taking care of 65 under-priviledged children in Chikomba and Sadza districts in Mashonaland East province, is a corporate social responsibility arm of Impala Car Rental.
“I am happy that ADF came to my rescue as I was in dire need of a wheelchair. The one I had was obsolete, and this new one is conveniently suitable for using when I get into town or when I travel. It can be folded,” Saujeni said.
Saujeni got paralysed at a tender age and his situation was worsened following the death of his father seven years ago.
“It has been a torrid time taking care of Mike and the other siblings after the death of their father,” said Saujeni’s mother Annie Mangadze.
“My situation is so unique because I have two other children with disabilities. I am not employed and I rely on vending where we go and sell wares outside Harare, especially at farms in Chegutu.
“We no longer go there because of Covid-19 restrictions. The situation is so dire and I am struggling to take care of my family.
“We were almost kicked out of this house because of rental arrears. Life is just tough for me and my children.”
Mangadze is happy that a well-wisher in the form of ADF had come to her son’s rescue.
“Mike is a gifted singer and sportsperson. He just needs someone to assist and the support he got from ADF will motivate him,” she said.
However, Saujeni said he faces a plethora of challenges, chief being dearth of proper accommodation.
“My biggest problem is that we don’t have a place to stay of our own. Here I struggle when I want to use the toilet. It is not
user-friendly for a person like me,” he said.
While Saujeni was privileged to go to school and study up to O’ Level, most people with disabilities are among the most likely to be out of school.
They face obstacles to education stemming from discrimination, stigma and the failure of decision-makers to incorporate disability in school services.
“I went to school through support from Jairos Jiri Association, Department of Social Welfare and SOS [Children’s Village Zimbabwe],” he said.
Robbed of their right to learn, children with disabilities are often denied the chance to take part in their communities, the workforce and the decisions that most affect them.
According to Unicef, nearly 50% of children with disabilities are not in school, compared to only 13% of their peers without disabilities.
Zimbabwe was one of the first countries in the world to enact disability discrimination legislation and has ratified various international conventions and declarations on people with disabilities; these include the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2006) as well as the UN Declaration on Human Rights (1948), among others.
At home the new constitution, unlike the previous one, takes a more inclusive approach on issues to do with people with disabilities under the Disabled Persons Act.
However, Emancipate Disability Constituency Trust (EDCT) chairperson Nyasha Nhau said despite these pieces of legislation and efforts to bring about awareness on disability in communities, societal stigmatisation remains the order of the day, while the law does not protect people with disability.
“The law in Zimbabwe does not provide for the welfare and rehabilitation of people with disabilities,” Nhau said.
“It is witnessed by the fact that almost 99,5% of wheelchair and clutch users as well as those who are in need of artificial legs, sunscreen lotions, hearing aids and tablets for those with autism or mentally challenged are struggling to get such important things and must have assistive devices and medication because they are expensive to get, whereas in other countries they are given for free.”
Nhau said there was need for the government to align laws and policies with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
He added that people with disabilities should be empowered and “not to be treated as a charity case”.
“Talents for people with disabilities can be harnessed and nurtured by empowering them like what Jimayi Muduvuri, a businessman in Kadoma, is doing. He is building a rehabilitation and medical centre for people with disabilities to help them expose their talents as well as to access medical service free of charge.”
In order to empower people with disabilities as well as enhancing their participation in community development programmes, the Jairos Jiri Association established an advocacy department.
The association’s lobby and advocacy activities include “awareness campaigns which are done to raise awareness in the communities on disability issues as well as mobilising communities so that they can take action on issues that affect their counterparts with disabilities”, the Jairos Jiri Association website reads.
“It also includes establishing disability committees which are aimed at enhancing community participation in disability issues and also empowering local communities to take responsibility of issues that affect them (including disability).
“The lobby and advocacy activities also include engaging decision-makers and community leadership with the aim of sensitizing them so that they can also consider disability in all their community development programmes.”
Impala Car Rental brand and events manager Tracy Ngoma said persons with disabilities generally have more health-care needs than others, hence her organisation’s determination to embrace them in the corporate social responsibility.
“We heard about the plight of Mike and through our corporate social responsibility arm — ADF — mobilised resources, including a wheelchair and groceries to help him,” Ngoma said.
“When we got to his home we learnt that he was so talented in music and basketball, but the biggest challenge was accommodation. The toilet at the house is not user-friendly and the house itself leaves a lot to be desired.
“We have raised the issue with the company management and we have started mobilising resources to find decent accommodation for Mike and his family.”
Ngoma said ADF has cast its net wider incorporating vulnerable groups across the country on top of taking care of 65 under-privileged children in Chikomba and Sadza districts.
Recently the association donated groceries to Mvurwi’s 16-year–old twin sisters Shelter and Sharon Chirata who suffered severe burns in an inferno at the age of five.
The company also paid medical bills for Sharon who underwent plastic surgery on her deformed face and neck at a private hospital in Harare last week.
Meanwhile, Saujeni’s childhood friend Gladymore Dhuze said his friend was talented but was failing to get assistance to record music.
“He has shown a passion for music from a tender age. I have been playing with him for many years and he has proved that he is a good musician if he gets the support he needs,” Dhuze said.
Dhuze said Saujeni had written many yet-to-be-recorded songs, such as Kalife kemughetto, Babie Rekusabhabha and Martial Arts, among others.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that disability cannot be a reason for lack of access to social life and for Saujeni talent has no boundaries.