The Chairperson of the Albinism Society of Botswana, Sergeant Kgosietsile, says that Batswana with albinism should not be given jobs that expose them to the sun for long periods of time.
As part of its lobbying campaign, the Society has presented a petition to parliament. In the petition, which was read out by the Deputy Speaker, Kagiso Molatlhegi, the Society calls on the government to adopt the Disability Policy as well as sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities. The petition also calls on the government to enact “empowerment laws that grant persons with disabilities certain privileges consistent with their levels of disability.”
Elaborating to Sunday Standard on the privileges aspect, Kgosietsile said that material-wise, albinos want the government to provide them with topical creams, sunglasses and hats in order that they can shield themselves from the sun. Within a school setting, he said that albino students should sit at the front in classrooms because even with glasses, are unable to see far.
“Most albino students fail not because they are not intelligent but because they have poor sight,” says Kgosietsile who is the councillor for Marulamantsi ward in Gaborone.
Employment-wise, the councillor says that albinos should not be offered jobs that expose them to the sun for long periods of time.
“When you hire albinos to work in Ipelegeng, you hasten their death because they automatically develop cancer and die soon thereafter. The situation is worsened if such albinos don’t have protective topical creams,” Kgosietsile says.
He adds that cancer is the main cause of death among albinos and that recently, some 70 percent of those who showed up for screening in Gaborone were diagnosed with the disease.
Kgosietsile describes a life-and-death situation but the government may not move fast enough. The Society wants the government to adopt the Disability Policy during the current sitting. Parliament itself never got to debate the petition, with the Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe, explaining that in terms of the standing orders, all the house is required to do is send the petition to the relevant ministry. Kgosietsile says that if the government drags its feet, the Society will seek help from outside or even go to the High Court. In the absence of disability legislation, those with disabilities often have to rely on charity but Kgosietsile says that is not good enough for them.
“We want our rights to be codified into law and not have to rely on charity. A poor albino child in Shakawe struggles to get topical creams and all too often develops cancer. We want that child to have a right under the law to be provided with such creams by the government,” he says.